It’s a community of people who allow you to be yourself
Ngoc Le has come a long way from her humble beginnings in Vietnam, pulling herself out of poverty and into a life of opportunity through determination and hard graft.
While she grew up poor, her parents set a remarkable standard for Ngoc to follow. Her mother was an ocean of calm during turbulent times, while her stepfather was resourceful in the toughest of circumstances.
“My stepfather was a talented man, and he would always find a way to put food on the table even if he just went fishing,” says Ngoc (pronounced Knop).
“My mother taught me about acceptance, to move along at ease with life.”
In the dying days of the war, her parents fled their home city of Da Nang in central Vietnam and re-settled in a tiny village outside of Ho Chi Minh City, with no money and four children, including Ngoc, to feed.
“Looking back now from the western life I lead, it looks really tough and I wonder how we all survived,” she says.
As a teenager, Ngoc knew education would be her “ticket out of poverty”, so she completed two university degrees, in biology and economics.
“I was the first person in my village to go to university,” she says.
“Some days I didn’t have enough money to eat, but I kept on going.”
After her studies, she worked as a project manager with a charity in Ho Chi Minh City that ran micro-finance projects to help poor families in remote communities help themselves.
“It kind of sparked something in me to find a more sustainable way to help people,” she says.
“I also saw that there was more to life than just living in Ho Chi Minh City.”
Ngoc wanted to study overseas, but with limited funds, she spent three years applying for university scholarships in the Netherlands, the US, UK and Australia.
Eventually, she secured a scholarship to study for her Master’s degree at the University of Queensland, before settling in Melbourne in 2006 with her Australian husband.
Ngoc took a “good job” with the Victorian Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, and while she enjoyed the regular paycheque, the role did not light her up inside.
“I wanted to serve in a greater capacity than merely just going to work and delivering on a plan; it just wasn’t enough for me,” she says.
“There was always a question in my mind of how I can best use my life to serve the community and in which capacity?”
The crunch came when Ngoc had her daughter, Sophie, and suddenly her choices were pushed into stark relief.
“If my job was going to take me away from Sophie, then I wanted it to be meaningful,” she says.
Ngoc signed up for a counselling course, which she enjoyed, but it failed to satisfy her need for a community of fellow travellers who understood and accepted her.
Enter The Life Coaching College.
“When I went searching for the community aspect, I came across life coaching and that was when I saw that it would allow me to bring all of my skills together: meditation, counselling and human connection, which really captured my heart and attention,” she says.
She enrolled in the Master Practitioner of Coaching in 2019 at the College and was blown away by the experience.
“When I started, I thought it would be just another course,” says Ngoc.
“I have two degrees, and I have completed many short and long courses, but I have never experienced that kind of training before, with that level of energy in the room and that emotional charge.”
Most of all, Ngoc loved the fact that the college offered “a community for life”.
“There were so many people that I could click with, and learn from, and that was what had been missing in my life,” she says.
“It is a community of people who allow you to be yourself.”
Ngoc has since started her own business, called Alive Now, coaching both English-speaking and Vietnamese clients.
“I love every minute of sitting with people and helping them to identify the real problem, not the problem they necessarily walk in with,” she says.
“It’s about feeling that source of life again, of not being stuck, and realising you can access that ‘alive’ feeling at any time.”