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Thanking The Year of The Lao Community

In case you haven’t noticed, it’s already Thanksgiving week. Here at LLOTP, we’re thankful for many things that have made our first year as a blog one heck of an exciting writing venture. It’s an experience that has enriched my sense of Lao American culture and I couldn’t do it without my co-bloggers Danny and Bryan.

Let’s look back at what a year has meant for us. We made a platform for our voices not only in the Midwest but for Lao Americans across the states, we covered stories when the Lao made headlines, we were mentioned and featured in the Star Tribune and Twin Cities Daily Planet, and with 143 Facebook fans and growing—we really can’t ‘jom’ (complain) at all.

So this week looking back, I’m thankful for the small and big steps we’ve taken to show that the Lao community is still alive and thriving in Minnesota.

SMALL STEPS

We showed how our thinking has changed the Lao Minnesotan voter mentality this election year like never before. The Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota reached out to more than 800 Lao Minnesotans in Get Out the Vote initiative. That’s A LOT of people to call from a three-person organization. During phone banking calls, volunteers helped Lao voters get into the discussion on the two negative-driven amendments that took the forefront of Minnesota elections. And regardless of party affiliations, Lao Minnesotans saw the changes having a voice at the polls can do for them. Both amendments were struck down.

Emerging community members are taking the leadership wheel. The Lao Professionals Network which started as a Facebook group is now a chapter group of active professionals in Minnesota that organize small events and cultural engagement sessions to share resources and opportunities with one another. A group of Lao philanthropists are paving the way towards addressing our community’s most pressing needs. The UMN’s Lao Student Association are getting more involved through volunteering at local Lao organizations from phonebanking to working with youth.

BIG STEPS

Over 15 Lao-based associations and Buddhist monks from the 5 Wat temples gathered at the same discussion table to organize a long overdue Lao New Year celebration. The temples used to run the ‘bouns’ and new year events. Then financial mismanagement and corruption shook the temples into silence. In April, realizing how the lack of these cultural events impacted the Lao community’s engagement, they understood the importance of working together. After years of hiatus, they organized the Lao New Year—together as a community. In just one night, over 800 people attended and raised over $8,000 to go towards the next Lao New Year celebration.

Sunny Chanthanouvong, Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota’s long time Executive Director received a $50,000 Bush Fellowship to lead civic engagement initiatives in the Lao Minnesotan community.

The Lao Advancement Organization of America (LAO America) just started a new executive director, leadership, and board to run their West Broadway location and to restart the cultural programs that have helped our youth connect with their heritage.

Bryan helped get the governor’s proclamation to declare August Lao Artists Month. Now he’s grabbing for the president’s attention.

As we take small and big steps, let us be thankful for these progressive feats that showcase we are on our way to a meaningful sense of community. So with the rest of 2012 looming over our heads, LLOTP is hoping to reach, capture, and gather the stories of our leaders, artists, writers and shakers that speak to our experiences.

As we look back, look at today, and look forward, what are you thankful for?

-Chanida

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