Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Our Health, Our Community

By Sunny Chanthanouvong, Executive Director.
Editorial originally appeared in March, 2010 Asian American Press

It’s exciting for the United States as we watch the possibility of affordable health care for Americans. This has been a long, difficult fight to be able to say we have a nation who sees the value in healthy citizens. Healthy citizens means more people who can work and learn, who can raise successful families. This is a great investment in our future, and I hope we see many more positive reforms in American policy, such as immigration, to help everyone reach our dreams and goals.

For the Lao community in the United States, and for many others, one issue that increasingly concerns me is Hepatitis B. We have collected very little information on its effect on our community, but speaking with many medical specialists from across the country, it’s clear to me we must support more efforts to research Hepatitis B and work with one another to educate ourselves about this disease. Asian Americans are 1.2 times more likely to have Hepatitis B than whites, the highest infection rate of any ethnic group.

But many of us from Southeast Asia avoid going to the doctor unless it’s an emergency. We rarely consider the importance of seeking preventative diagnosis. This is a part of the culture that must change. It’s difficult to have cases identified so we can understand how common Hepatitis B is in Minnesota and across the United States. California and a few other states have attempted to study this but we all need to help fight this silent killer.

Just a decade ago we had no treatments. There is still no complete cure, but there are treatments now and many promising new approaches being developed. Let’s not get left behind. Let’s do our part to help researchers learn more about how Hepatitis B spreads in our community so we can find a cure.

Our challenge as a community is we can be infected and not know it because Hepatitis B does not usually have any signs or symptoms. The only way we can find out is through a blood test. We need to educate ourselves to ask for this to be done, not just for ourselves but for the health of our whole community.

Laos is one of many countries of Southeast Asia where the hepatitis B virus is very common. Most infections happen at birth or from an infected family member, and if untreated, a hepatitis B infection can lead to cancer of the liver and other serious conditions. This can cost a family so much if it’s detected too late. Hepatits B is preventable and treatable. We owe it to our families and our communities to get tested and enjoy a long life with those we love and support.

Returning from New Orleans

After a three day journey to New Orleans, the Lao Assistance Center staff returned with a deeper, enhanced understanding of collective leadership as we visited the 25,000 Vietnamese in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, who played a pivotal role in the return of the residents to New Orleans East. There were many lessons to take in from the community who found value in maintaining a mix of traditional and new values. For over 30 years they'd often been an invisible aspect of New Orleans life, but after the hurricane, they learned that it is important to have a presence and a voice or it is very easy to find community policies made without you that can dramatically affect your health and quality of life.
We were particularly impressed by the tenacity and energy of the youth whose voices were vital to the rebuilding process and awakening a renewed interest in their identity as contributing and defining members of the community.

We spent our time in New Orleans building an understanding of the importance of community voice and asking questions of how we create those vital spaces to connect you and your families to the support you need to build the society you want.
In the coming months ahead, we look forward to continuing to engage these issues and many more.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Lao Assistance Center in New Orleans

This week, Lao Assistance Center staff will participate in the National Gender Equity Campaign's organizational convening in New Orleans to learn about and share practices on “building power,” “collective leadership,” and “cultural change” for social justice movements.

Our time will include a film Screening of “A Village Called Versailles” followed by Q & A with Leo Chiang, film maker. The hope throughout the process is to bring relevant practitioners to share tangible examples of “leadership” and “community-building” in social justice movement work to our network to learn from them.

To that end, we'll also be connecting with New Orleans Workers’ Center for Racial Justice at the First United Methodist Church and meeting Colette Tippy, Program Director & Saket Soni, Executive Director of the organization. We'll also meet Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC's Environmental Justice Coordinator, Lauren Butz. We'll also meet the Executive director of VAYLA-NO, Minh Nguyen.

We'll participate in a Peer Learning Session facilitated in Small Groups by: CPA, KGA, SOY, featuring the following NOLA leaders:
· Norris Henderson, Director, Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE);
· Allen James and Yvette Thierry, Safe Streets, Strong Communities;
· Lauren Butz, Environmental Justice Coordinator, Mary Queen of Vietnam CDC.

We look forward to sharing the full results with you upon our return!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Lao Assistance Center in the news

In recent articles, the Lao Assistance Center was covered for its role in the Census 2010 efforts and also the new initiative from the Refugee and Immigrant Women for Change Coalition. A big thanks to all of our community supporters who've been so helpful!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Vincent Who at U of M: March 24th

The Asian American Studies Program of the University of Minnesota is one of several departments sponsoring the screening of 'Vincent Who?' with a live discussion with director Curtis Chin next Wednesday on March 24th at 4:00 PM at the University of Minnesota (330 Anderson Hall).
The film centers on the journey of Asian Americans since the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, who was killed in Detroit by two laid-off autoworkers who mistook him for Japanese. Or, perhaps, were simply indifferent. Vincent's killers served no jail time, were given three years probation, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $780 in court costs. But they have never paid a dime and still walk free.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cultural Dynamics: Women's Voices a success!

On Thursday, March 4th the Refugee and Immigrant Women for Change Coalition hosted a luncheon at Plaza Verde in Minneapolis to kick-off a new initiative to promote gender equity in Minnesota. Over 130 people were estimated in attendance throughout the event and nearly $800 was raised to support the cause.

The theme of the luncheon was Cultural Dynamics: Women's Voices and featured keynote speaker Leymah Gbowee. Other speakers included Doris Parker of the Liberian Women's Initiative, Gloria Edin of CAPI, and Bryan Thao Worra of the Lao Assistance Center.

Recently formed, the Refugee and Immigration Women for Change Coalition partner agencies are building stronger families and communities! Current members include: African Health Action, CAPI, Centro, Lao Assistance Center,Liberian Women’s Initiative,Sewa - AIFW and WISE. Over time, more partners are encouraged to join the coalition to help community members engage with these timely issues.

The keynote speaker Leymah Roberta Gbowee is the executive director of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, based in Accra, Ghana. She was a founding member of the Women in Peacebuilding Program/West African Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP). The Women's Leadership Board at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government honored her with the prestigious Blue Ribbon Peace Award. Ms. Gbowee and the women of Liberia were awarded the Profiles in Courage Award by the Kennedy Library Foundation.
The lunch was free for those who gave an RSVP. Future events are planned for the community to provide leadership training, networking opportunities and access to key resources to help refugee and immigrant communities tap into their full potential.

Census 2010 Kickoff!

This Wednesday if you come to Midtown Global Market, we have the Asian Pacific American Census 2010 kickoff celebration with free food and entertainment from 5-7pm.

The Midtown Global Market is at the corner of Chicago and Lake Streets in Minneapolis It's your chance to find out more about the Census 2010, get some great goodies and Enjoy light refreshments, Asian American performers and more! We've got Census posters in Lao, Lao car window stickers for Census 2010 and more. Don't miss it!

Lao Assistance Center Executive Director Sunny Chanthanouvong has also written an opinion piece for Asian American Press addressing the Census 2010: http://aapress.com/community/government/everyone-counts-in-the-census-and-in-america

LAC joins 1st Asian American Housing Network recognized by HUD

At the end of February, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) approved the nation’s first network of housing counseling organizations dedicated to serving Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPIs) facing foreclosures or who need general housing counseling.

The National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (CAPACD), is now an intermediary for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and will support a national network of nonprofit community based organizations in ten states providing services in more than ten AAPI languages and communities.

As part of CAPACD’s network of local affiliates, Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota (LACM) here in Minneapolis will now receive the well-deserved recognition of the important housing services they are providing to the Lao community. “We are very excited about the partnership with National CAPACD and the significant impact it will have on our housing counseling program,” said Sunny Chanthanouvong, Executive Director at LACM. “Lao families are losing their homes in foreclosure and paying thousands of dollars to scam artists. We hope to be a resource for our community to help families avoid foreclosure and avoid becoming a victim of fraud.”

“HUD’s recognition of National CAPACD is an important step forward for AAPI communities,” said Congressman Mike Honda, Chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. “Too many people have lost their homes in this foreclosure crisis. With such great need, this designation for National CAPACD will support our community to get back on their feet. The Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus is proud of National CAPACD’s work.”

According to Census data recently released, Asian Americans have suffered the largest percentage decline in homeownership of any racial group. Many Asian American and Pacific Islander homeowners found it difficult to find help in the language or with the cultural understanding that they needed. Others have been targeted by fraudulent or misleading vendors offering services that often resulted in the loss of their homes. The network is providing counseling to homeowners facing foreclosure and community based financial education on strategies to find alternative housing opportunities.

“Our goal is to support the development of best practices and national policies that will serve and protect all our communities,” said Lisa Hasegawa, Executive Director of National CAPACD. “Not only do we need to help homeowners and renters survive the present crisis but we also need to assure this melt down doesn’t happen again.”

For more information you can visit online at www.laocenter.org or come to their offices at 503 Irving Avenue North in Minneapolis.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cultural Dynamics: Women's Voices

The Refugee and Immigrant Women for Change Coalition is hosting a very special luncheon and networking session: Cultural Dynamics: Women's Voices with keynote speaker Leymah Gbowee. This event and lunch is free for those who RSVP by February 25th!

Speakers include: Doris Parker of the Liberian Women's Initiative, Gloria Edin of CAPI, and Bryan Thao Worra of the Lao Assistance Center.

The highlight of the lunch is a keynote speech by international award-winning activist Leymah Gbowee

This is a kick-off event for the new Refugee and Immigrant Women for Change Coalition and our work for gender equity. For more information, contact: RIWC@capiusa. org 

The Refugee and Immigration Women for Change Coalition partner agencies are building stronger families and communities! Current members include: African Health Action, CAPI, Centro, Lao Assistance Center,Liberian Women’s Initiative,Sewa - AIFW and WISE

Leymah Roberta Gbowee is the executive director of the Women Peace and Security Network Africa, based in Accra, Ghana. She is a founding member of the Women in Peacebuilding Program/West African Network for Peacebuilding (WIPNET/WANEP) . In 2007, the Women's Leadership Board at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government honored her with the prestigious Blue Ribbon Peace Award. In 2009, Ms. Gbowee and the women of Liberia were awarded theProfiles in Courage Award by the Kennedy Library Foundation.

Lunch is free for those who RSVP, and it's a great chance to meet others working on the issues of refugee and immigrant women in Minnesota and around the world. Hope to see you there! This is a great opportunity for Lao community members and others to connect!