As a college student, Ms. Sawyer and her family left Saigon, Vietnam, via the American Embassy rooftop in 1975, a few hours after the fall of Saigon. In addition to helping the start-up of several innovative companies (People Express Airlines, Scanning America), while raising her three children, Ms. Sawyer partnered with her husband in their humanitarian work bringing educational and medical projects to Vietnam. Every year, Ms. Sawyer travels to the highlands of Vietnam for economic development and art and cultural preservation projects among Vietnamese ethnic minorities.
As Executive Director for the Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts, Ms. Sawyer oversees the agency’s mission to provide critical assistance to SE Asian refugees, immigrants and low-income families so that they can thrive and contribute, while helping to preserve the Southeast Asian cultural heritage in Central Massachusetts. Since 2015, her agency has also provided assistance to refugees from Iran, Iraq and Syria. During her directorship, SEAC received 2016 Katherine Forbes Erskine Award, 2016 MCPHS Community Partner Award, 2016 John Auerbach Community Leader Award, 2015 Massachusetts Non-Profit Network Excellence Award, 2015 Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Outstanding Member and 2014 Eleanor T. Hawley Human Rights Commission Award. Ms. Sawyer is a member of Governor Baker's Advisory Council For Refugees And Immigrants and Attorney General Maura Heally’s Advisory Council On New Americans.
Ms. Sawyer is a published author (Song of Saigon, Warner Books, 2003), essayist and award-winning instructor.