Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Celebrating 30 Years in America! October 9th

On October 9th, please join the Lao Assistance Center, our friends, families and supporters as we celebrate 30 years of Lao in America!

We will remember where we've been and where we're going. The evening will feature traditional live music, dance, fine dining, door prizes and other fun opportunities to meet our community and celebrate together.

Lao culture traces its cultural roots to the 14th century. Modern Laos, a nation approximately the size of Great Britain, is home to over 60 ethnicities, each with their own linguistic traditions and customs. In the United States there are approximately 200,000 Lao who have resettled here since the wars of the 20th century. Minnesota has the 3rd largest Lao refugee population in the US with 25,000 residents.

Learn more about our community's journey this October!

Crystal Community Center
4800 Douglas Drive North
Minneapolis, MN 55429-3553

Lao Writers to Present at World Refugee Day!

Lao American writers Saymoukda Vongsay and Bryan Thao Worra will be among the performers at this year's Twin Cities World Refugee Day on Saturday, June 5th, from 1:00pm-6:00pm in downtown Minneapolis between 7th and 8th streets!

The event will feature music, dance, food and vendors from around the world, as well as a community resource fair. For even more fun, stick around for Minneapolis MOSAIC from 6-10pm –Minneapolis’ annual festival celebrating diversity through the arts.

What is World Refugee Day?
In 2000, the United Nations General Assembly established June 20th as World Refugee Day. Since 2001, people around the world have celebrated the day with events that honor the world’s more than 16 million refugees and raise awareness around refugee issues. Twin Cities World Refugee Day is our local event that aims to:

* Recognize the more than 100,000 refugees living in every corner of our state and celebrate the diversity of culture and experiences that they bring to our community.

* Raise awareness around refugee issues, including: international conflicts and violence that create refugee crises, the refugee resettlement process both here and abroad, and the challenges and opportunities faced by refugees after resettling in Minnesota.

* Build a cultural bridge between longtime Minnesota residents and our newest community members.

See you there!

Lao Youth receive support from Aronson & Associates!

A thanks goes out this week to the generous Aronson & Associates for their outstanding support of the Lao Youth Advancement Program at the Lao Assistance Center! Their foundation just donated $1,000 to support ongoing efforts in our community to help youth achieve!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Thanks everyone for your support!

The “Pan Asian Dance Festival” was held on Sunday, May 23rd, 2010 at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center with over 300 people in attendance, including many from the Lao community who were able to attend for the very first time. It was an exciting event with great energy. It was enjoyable to see so much talent gathered together, and we hope that there will be many more events like these in the future!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Lao Assistance Center thanks UROC!

The Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota has received 8 computers from the Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center to support our Youth Advancement Program and general operations to address significant educational disparities between Lao Youth and other Twin City area populations.  

On behalf of the Board of Directors, staff, and the Lao Youth and Community, we would like to take this opportunity to express our thanks tothe Urban Research and Outreach/Engagement Center for supporting this  project! 

You can visit UROC at UROC is currently home to 12 university programs that are committed to pursuing research and outreach in an authentic and fully-engaged partnership with individuals and organizations in the Northside communities!

“Pan Asian Dance Festival” on Sunday, May 23rd

Asian Media Access (AMA), the Twin Cities nonprofit organization dedicated to cultural enhancement through media arts and education, in collaboration with MN Sunshine Dance Group and Pan Asian Artists Alliance, is proud to present “Pan Asian Dance Festival” on Sunday, May 23rd, 2010, from 12:00 PM to 5:00 PM at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center, 12600 Nicollet Avenue, Burnsville, MN 55337, a state-of-the art $20 million venue which opened in January 2009.

From 12:00 PM to 2:00 PM, families can take part in Asian craft making, street art, face painting, and other family fun activities. The cultural dance performances, from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM, will feature a diverse display from the Asian community including Indian, Chinese, Hmong, Indonesian, Korean, Japanese, Laotian, and Vietnamese dancers. Locally known dance groups such as CAAM Chinese Dance Theater, Ragamala Dance Group, and Changmi Korean Dance will perform fascinating dance performances.

Pan Asian Dance Festival, a part of the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month activities, will promote a greater understanding of Asian countries and culture. The festival aims to celebrate and unify the diverse Asian communities in MN, educate and share the arts and traditions of Asians, and build intergenerational and intercultural bridges across all barriers.

612-376-7715 or

Friday, May 14, 2010

U.S.Embassy provides counter-narcotics assistance to Laos

United States Ambassador to Laos, Ravic R. Huso, signed an Amendment to the Letter of Agreement last week on behalf of the U.S. Government for bilateral cooperation with the Government of Laos in support of counter narcotics and law enforcement.

Asian Pacific Heritage Month

A message from Lao Assistance Center Executive Director, Sunny Chanthanouvong

This year is a very special Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and the 30th anniversary of arrival in America for Lao, Hmong, Vietnamese, Cambodians. We are just a few of many who resettled here, uncertain what our future would be.

In Minnesota we have amazing success thanks to our desire to work together and the generosity of our new friends. There were ups and downs, but that is any journey. There is still work to be done. Today we can be proud seeing so many taking the road to good education and jobs, building families and participating in civic engagement. Always remember the good we have done together.

I came to the Lao Assistance Center in 1992 to working with youth, and eventually became executive director in 2001. As a group we try to give those who want to help our community a chance to help by civic engagement. Everyone involved comes with an amazing spirit of generosity and talent to help, young and old alike. They believe we are interconnected and we can make a difference. We can never take this positive vision for granted. I’m so proud to see many of the youth I worked with 18 years ago now going on to great futures. Some stay in Minnesota, some move to other states, but I and my colleagues are always happy to see the good results of all of our combined efforts continuing to shape our community today.

In our offices we see so many issues connected. For example, we see the importance of the Census 2010 and raising awareness about Hepatitis B and seeking good health. We discovered that addressing teen pregnancies, fighting alcoholism and problem gambling matter to create stable households as much as helping elders and helping those looking for work. We see the importance of creating financial literacy and helping others gain citizenship. Remember our stories and our long journey. Not everyone starts out with the same advantages, and we continue to work with our friends to help those who might otherwise fall between the cracks. Don’t build the future by forgetting others.

The freedom to make our voices heard matters. Whether it’s sharing a story from our old homelands or a vision of what our future can be, they are all valuable. In our journey to America, we lost much and we gained much. As we stand here together, looking at what the next thirty years, even thirty centuries might bring, let’s remember: Every moment is an opportunity.
On behalf of the Lao Assistance Center, our friends and colleagues, thank you for being a part of that journey. Don’t stop. We can build an amazing country together. Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage Month!

SEARAC Denounces Arizona Ethnic Studies Ban

Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC) denounces the Arizona state legislature's recent passage of a bill that bans ethnic studies in the state. The bill is targeted at a K-12 ethnic studies curriculum in Arizona and was signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer yesterday. Proponents of H.B. 2281 claim that the purpose of the law is to ban classes that "promote the overthrow of the U.S. government and promote resentment toward a race or class of people."

As an organization that works to ensure that all students receive an equitable and inclusive education, SEARAC believes that ethnic studies programs enhance student learning and promote civic engagement and academic achievement. SEARAC works in coalition with other civil rights organizations to ensure that all students, regardless of their racial or ethnic background, and immigration or socio-economic status are able to attain a high-quality education. This law is a disservice to all students in the state of Arizona who are deprived of the opportunity to learn about the diversity that makes this country great.

Doua Thor, Executive Director of SEARAC, states: "As an organization that supports inclusivity and works to empower communities, SEARAC stands against this law for its shortsightedness and racism. Ethnic studies programs make America stronger; they are not about promoting resentment as the law claims, but rather, they promote inclusion-teaching students about how ethnic groups in America have participated in and contributed to American history and society."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Outcomes from April's Southeast Asians Living Chemically Free Program

The key topics for this month's discussions were around drugs in the Lao community.

During the first support group session on April 10th, clients were given an introduction about drugs. They had a chance to learn what we mean when we discuss drug abuse, especially regarding prescription drugs, the difference between illicit and over-the-counter drugs, and similar issues.

Lao Assistance Center staff also provided  information on the cost of drugs, especially the legal differences and penalties for possession, usage and sales of illicit drugs. This session took place at the Lao Assistance Center in Minneapolis with a total of 10 clients in attendance.

During the second session of the month we had a total of 10 people attending, again at the Lao Assistance Center. On April 26, staff presented information on the various causes of drug usage and how it can vary in different people. The clients were also given information on the short-term and long-term impact and effects of drug usage. Our goal is to provide awareness about the types of drugs that are out there and the dangerous involved.

We also wanted client to differentiate between illicit and over-the-counter or prescription drugs, so staff provided a PowerPoint slides with notes and visuals to show pictures of drugs/forums as well as presented in Laotian.

People in the group were surprise to learn that there were people that take and abuse prescriptions medication aside beyond their medicinal purpose. Many had previously believed only illegal drugs could be an issue.

The Lao Assistance Center Staff also held a family session the same day. With the family and client there was a total of 13 people. During the family session, everyone was provided a fuller introduction to drugs, drug abuse, the different types of drugs, prescription vs. illicit, cause and effects of drug use.

On April 25, staff coordinated a youth leadership meeting with a total of 8 youths in attendance at the Lao Assistance Center. For this month, the topic was about preparing for the upcoming youth forum.

There was a group discussion about how we would incorporate the movie night concept with the drug media theme, youth considered what topics or pieces to present (audio/radio, television and movies, printed materials, digital and social media, etc.)  The group then started their discussion about who they would present and on what format plus they started to research more into their topic. The primary objective of this month's youth leadership meeting was to prepare the youth for the youth forum.

During this time, the youth brainstormed what topic to discuss, the theme for the event, how to coordinate and present their information and plan among their group of 2 to 3 people about types of information to present.

Key meetings of the month include April 17th, 2010 when Phouninh Vixayvong met the community leaders in the Lao community; the purpose of the meeting was to establish a relationship with the community leaders and work with them to address the chemical health issues in the Lao Community as well as get input/insight into the community and its association with substances.

The meeting with the community leaders took place at the Lao New Year celebration event in Monticello. The all-day event brought in thousands of the Lao people in the state of Minnesota. At the event staff introduced themselves and the chemical health program as well as discussion about the community, etc.

The staff had contacted the community leaders two days before the event to set up a meeting and verify where they would like to meet. Phouninh Vixayvong introduced herself, the Southeast Asian Living Chemically program, the community leaders also introduced themselves and what they do. There were discussions about chemical issues, if they or someone they know have issues regarding ATOD they can contact us, the effects of drugs on the body and mind. Some questions that the community leaders have asked were things like; how can we, as the Lao Assistance Center or as the staff in the Southeast Asian Living Chemically Free program help them or the Lao people in the community. What are the process and resource we offer?

The meeting when well, the community leaders display interest in the services we offered and commented that the program would be good for the Lao community. They also commented that they would mention the program to the people in the community and refer anyone if they're interested in learning more about ATOD.

Staff meets every Monday of the week (April 5,12,19,26) with the Executive Director of the agency to discuss about progress of the chemical health program, give updates on group sessions, upcoming events, planning and other topic (training, conference, community outreach, etc.). It helps the E.D. become aware of the program, how staff are doing and get ideas about where staff are at and where we should be or what goals we have to achieve whether it is for the coming weeks, months or quarter. Program progress, outreach (community and youth), group sessions (support, family, youth, etc.) and what topics we'll be discussing with the groups for the months, planning and upcoming events including training, conferences, outreach, community leaders, etc. We also discuss issues that we may be encountering regarding the program as well as budget and other things. Staff and E.D. have a better understanding what to do or what to prepare for, issues are resolved or heard so ideas and ideas of how to resolve issues are brought up.

On April14th, Kinnary Pimpadubsee attended the Energy Drink: The Other 6 pack training, the purpose of attending the event was to gain more information on energy drinks. To find out the dangerous and the effects of energy drinks, gain insight on experts from the field and how it can apply it to the Lao community. The presenter shared information about the effects of energy drinks on metabolism and the body, the short and long term effects of caffeine intake, the effects of mixing energy drinks (with alcohol, dextromethorphan, nicoderm patches, nicorette gum, energy drinks that contain alcohol and other information.

There were a lot of valuable and helpful information that was presented at the training; it makes you think about the serious of caffeine intake and what people are doing with the energy drinks. Consider the information that were given and see how it incorporate or fit into the Lao community. Share information about the dangerous and effects of caffeine and energy drinks to the community (the effects on the body, metabolism, short and long terms and other effects associated with usage).

This month Kinnary Pimpadubsee attended the Substance Abuse Prevention Specialist Training on April 21,22,23,29, and 30 was to learn about the methods and approach to take when doing substance abuse prevention. This course offers up-to-date and evidence-based information in the prevention field such as looking at the logic models, cultural competency, planning, evaluation, assessment, sustainability, and other information. It was also a good opportunity to meet and network with the 20 or so health care professional that was present at the training which range from the principle of a school, school chemical health counselor, regional chemical health resource provider, etc. It was great to connect with those individual and get their input and comment in prevention for the 5 day training. A lot of information applies to what the Southeast Asian Living Chemically program, staff got to learn about the approach need to implement and run the program which runs from assessment of the targeted community, capacity, planning, implementation, evaluation and sustanability and cultural competency.

There were also evidence based program that has worked and can be use as models, logical models and other resources to make the program more effective.

On April 23, Pany Siharath and Phouninh Vixayvong attended the Population Specific Grantee's quarterly meeting at the MIWRC. During their time there they got to learn about the Minnesota Recovery Connection program which included TC AARMS( level I, II, and III Mentors), the Guia Project through PACT 4 and how its using recovery coaches or mentors with 1:1 contact at home and school. Staff were given information about the history of MRC and than later on about the historical trauma and issues that the American Indians faced. It a great opportunity to catch up with other grantees and get progress, updates and learn more about the history of the Native American.

Through the month of April, Phouninh Vixayvong has been meeting with individuals for a one-on-one individual sessions, those meeting took place at the Lao Assistance Center of MN every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (one individual per day). There are a total of 6 individuals, during the meeting staff would do the chemical assessment and ROLE 25 with the client. 5 of the clients are learning and focusing on alcohol and related issues since there were referenced due to DUI and one on chemical use.

On April 27, all three chemical health staff meet with the program coordinator for our quarterly meeting at the Lao Assistance Center. During this meeting there were updates on progress and updates about the grantee quarterly meeting with the population specific (discussion about the American Indian trauma). Staff and coordinator also talked about the program, why it is important for staff to do community outreach in the NW Hennepin areas, and other topic relating to group sessions.

Lao Assistance Center thanks the Beim Foundation

The Beim Foundation recently gave an award of $5,000 to the Lao Assistance Center Youth Advancement Program!

The Beim Foundation is a multi-generational family foundation who honors the past while embracing the future.

They demonstrate leadership by investing in innovation, providing opportunities for those in need, creating healthy and sustainable communities through compassionate action and fostering personal and spiritual growth through giving.

The Beim Foundation expresses its values by making grants in the community in the areas of arts, environment, human services and education. The Lao Assistance Center is honored to have their support.

This grant will provide specific support for our Youth Advancement Program, which will provide leadership development, health, art and academic support activities to Lao youth. We believe academic achievement is essential to long-term community success and the Lao Assistance Center works with youth to ensure good grades and comprehension of the subject matter, with a focus on college-prep skills to ensure a greater percentage of Lao youth can attend college. We will also help youth identify and apply for college scholarships and financial aid.

LACM staff are inspired by the energy, enthusiasm and accomplishments of our future Lao leaders, but are also troubled many high potential youth leaders either drop out of high school or do not pursue post-secondary educational opportunities after graduating from high school. Much more needs to be done to support Lao youth, who struggle with Lao/American identity systems, limited resources and growing educational disparities.

Research conducted by the Asian American Justice Center in 2006 shows that educationally the Lao community lags behind seven other Twin City Asian American groups (i.e. Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Asian Indian, Filipino, Japanese, etc) and in comparison to all Twin City adults, are significantly behind, and the gap continues to grow. Just 17% of Lao adults have a 2-year college degree or better compared to 43% of all Twin City adults. Further, 42% of Lao adults have less than a high school education as compared to just 9% of all Twin City adults.

Our significant educational attainment disparities- high school dropouts and lack of college creates long-term and immediate strains on key services and impacts community growth.

The Lao Assistance Center would like to expand upon our existing leadership-focused activities and we believes this type of investment is greatly needed to narrow academic achievement disparities and ensure Lao youth have opportunities to realize their full potential as adults and contribute to our community development.

LACM staff have clearly heard from the community that youth educational advancement and adult employment are the highest priorities to address, and we are working together with you find solutions and build a future for our youth.

To that end, we will be working with at least 90 Lao Youth this year to provide them access to academic support, ACT prep class,6 college Tours, college application assistance, and developing Transition mentors to help our youth reach college. Stay tuned for more details, or contact our offices to find out how to get involved.

Again, we thank the Beim Foundation for their generous support and we look forward to working with you and all of our colleagues in the community.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Asian Pacific Leadership Awards Announced!

Congratulations to the 2010 Asian Pacific Leadership Awards recipients, including Lao American visual artist  Mali Kouanchao, for Excellence in the Arts.  

If you can, please attend the dinner this year so we can show our support for our fellow Lao who are helping to raise our local and national profile in positive ways!

The other winners include Mao Heu Thao and Kaimay Yuen Terry for Leadership and Dixie Lee Riley (posthumously) for Lifetime Achievement. The results were recently announced by the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans.

The awards will be presented at the annual dinner this month. For this year, the Council has put together a program that will explore the roots of the Asian American & Pacific Islanders community. 

The Annual Dinner is Saturday, May 15, 2010 from 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm at the Crowne Plaza Riverfront, 11 East Kellogg Blvd, St. Paul, MN. Dinner is $40.00 per person. 

For inquiries or to RSVP contact the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans at 651-757-1740 or