Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Welcome Emerge * Americorps!

The Lao Assistance Center in Minnesota recently welcomed David Zander and Linda Homsombath as a host site for Emerge * Americorps members. Both of them bring exceptional skills volunteering in our community. The Lao Assistance Center is one of 17 host sites selected in Minnesota to work to create pathways of success for ex-offenders and immigrants with Emerge * Americorps.

Together, our goal is to assist approximately 3,750 immigrants and ex-offenders to successfully integrate into the workforce with a team of 30 AmeriCorps members like David and Linda. The Lao Assistance Center and the other partners will be working closely with Emerge * Americorps to implement 5 distinct service activities that increase the employability of our participants.

The other organizations are 180 Degrees, AccessAbility, Amicus, the Brian Coyle Community Center, Ceder Riverside Adult Education Collaborative, Confederation of the Somali Community in Minnesota, EMERGE, Goodwill Easter Seals of MN, Karen Organization of Minnesota, the Minneapolis Urban League, the Minnesota Council of Churches, Neighborhood House, Operation de Novo, Oromo Community of Minnesota, Rebuild Resources and Waite House.

Among activities David and Linda are working on with our staff and other community colleagues are:
* Facilitating soft skills/work readiness training
* Providing individualized job readiness/placemement assistance
* Organizing a quarterly site-based celebratory event
* Recruiting and supporting community volunteers to further enhance our capacity to serve our community and
* Civic engagement activities

Welcome, David and Linda and we look forward to seeing the great programs that emerge out of all of this!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

MN Lao Artists Recognized at national Lao Artists Festival

On Saturday, August 21st, nationally acclaimed Lao American artists were recognized during the national Lao Artists Festival in Elgin, Illinois in an an event organized by the Laotian Professionals of Illinois.

The mission of the festival is “To showcase and advocate our talents, preserve our culture, and provide leadership for our future through art education and awareness.” Among the artists recognized include visual artist Mali Kouanchao for her work as a painter and Bryan Thao Worra for his work with literacy. Other Minnesota artists represented include playwright and poet Saymoukda Vongsay. The Lao American rapper Gumby AKA Pryce performed during the festival which nearly filled the entire Hemmens Auditorium. It was an evening to remember for everyone.

Lao American Writers Summit convened in Minnesota

On August 13-15th, over 120 people came for the first national Lao American Writers Summit. The Lao Assistance Center served as the fiscal agent for this project, which was 3 years in the planning. 

Nearly 2 dozen award-winning Lao American artists gathered together to work with Lao and non-Lao including Hmong, European American, African American, Thai and Tongans to discuss the importance of art, community and how to remember our history and traditions.

The project had support from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, the Jerome Foundation, the national Association for Asian American Studies, the national Asian Pacific American Librarian's Association, the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans, the Center for Lao Studies, Asian American Press, and the Lao Student Association of the University of Minnesota, and many individual contributors and donors.

We energized and inspired our youth, who comprised a majority of the participants, and elders who'd never been to facilities such as the Loft Literary Center.

Many of our elders were excited at the opportunity to come forward and tell our stories and their journey, including one elder who'd lived in Minnesota for years, quietly working on a history of the Lao people and a dictionary. He hadn't realized there were so many writers and artists across the country and he was overjoyed that there was a young generation who wanted to continue the study of art and culture.

We learned many things discovered many ways to improve our work in the community.  We're all looking forward to future activities. The most important consequences of the Summit will bloom over the course of the next several decades within both our elders and the younger generation.  Thanks to everyone who came and we look forward to working with all of you again in the coming years ahead.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Legacies of War Celebrates Convention on Cluster Munitions

Legacies of War joins the thousands of cluster bomb survivors in Laos and around the world to celebrate the Entry into Force of the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The Convention on Cluster Munitions is the most significant disarmament and humanitarian treaty in more than a decade; 107 countries have signed the treaty and 37 countries have ratified it. Lao PDR, the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history, and one of the first countries to sign the treaty, will host the convention's First Meeting of State Parties in Vientiane, Lao PDR, in November 2010.

"We are pleased that the First Meeting of States Parties will be held in Laos, which accounts for the most cluster munitions casualties worldwide, as a result of massive U.S. bombings during the Vietnam War-era. We would encourage the U.S., who hasn't signed the treaty, to attend this historic meeting in November," said Brett Dakin, Board Chair of Legacies of War.

On average, the U.S. spends $2.7M per year, compared to the $17M per day (today's dollars) it spent during the 9 years of bombing (1964-1973). "Legacies of War is calling for an increase in U.S. funding to $10M per year over the next 10 years in order to make a significant dent in the current cluster bomb problem in Laos and save thousands of lives in the future," Dakin added.

The meeting will create an action plan to be used by all states to complete the legal obligations of the treaty, including support for clearance, stockpile destruction and victim assistance.

As a lead up to the First Meeting of States Parties, campaigners around the world are holding public events in August to mark the official Entry into Force of the treaty. On August 1, the "Beat the Drum" campaign featured drumming events in 70 countries to welcome the treaty into force and highlight the treaty's significance in communities affected by cluster bombs. Although the United States has not signed the treaty, events are being held around the country to participate in the international campaign. In Portland, OR, drumming circles, student groups and local musicians will join forces for a large drumming event on August 14.

Cluster bombs have a devastating effect on civilian communities as many bombs fail to detonate at the time they are dropped. Laos has been hit particularly hard by cluster munitions, which have killed or maimed as many as 50,000 civilians since 1964 (and 20,000 since 1974, after the war ended). Each year, there are 300 new casualties in Laos; 40 percent are children.

Legacies of War is a non-profit organization whose mission is to raise awareness about the history of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos and advocate for the clearance of unexploded bombs, to provide space for healing the wounds of war, and to create greater hope for a future of peace.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Arts opportunities in Minnesota

FY 2011 grant application deadlines
The Minnesota State Arts Board has posted its schedule of grant application deadlines and advisory panel review meetings for the first part of FY 2011. The board expects to have one grant round in the fall/winter and another in the spring; additional dates will be added to the calendar later this fall.

Grant information sessions
Sessions are being offered this month for the upcoming Artist Initiative grant round. Register online if you'd like to attend. www.arts.state.mn.us/calendar/info_sessions.htm

Monday, August 2, 2010

Call for materials for Lao American Writers Summit

On August 13-15th, we will be convening the first national Lao American Writers Summit in Minneapolis, a program over 10 years in the making gathering award-winning writers and artists, including Oscar & Emmy nominees and many others.

The Lao American Writers Summit currently has over 100 guests expected throughout different parts of the event from across the country to participate.

One aspect of the summit is a resource fair where community members will have an opportunity to meet national, regional and local arts, philanthropic and refugee service organizations, publishers and researchers who can answer questions and advise writers and artists on significant opportunities. If you're interested in sending some flyers, postcards or other materials for our participants we'd be happy to have them at our event. Please send them to us by Monday, August 9th, to:

Lao American Writers Summit
503 Irving Ave. No
Minneapolis, MN 55405

Lao and E-Cigarettes?

Have you noticed electronic cigarettes?

Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are showing up in our community and across Minnesota. Start Noticing and the Lao Assistance Center are concerned e-cigarettes may appealing to community members because of their availability online, at convenience stores and at malls.

The FDA warns e-cigarettes could be the newest gateway leading youth to try tobacco products; they come in many colors and candy flavors like apple, cherry and chocolate. The danger is e-cigaretes make smoking look normal and appealing—influencing children's perceptions of smoking. Already the Lao Assistance Center and Start Noticing have seen students asking multiple questions about e-cigarettes in recent presentations.

Electronic cigarettes are advertised as a cheaper smoking alternative. The e-cigarette does not contain tobacco, is not ignited or lit, and does not produce smoke from burning substances, but e-cigarette "vapor"  still pollutes indoor air. These devices contain addictive nicotine and other toxic chemicals not evaluated by the FDA. They are already banned in Canada and Australia, and the Lao Assistance Center recommends all community memers avoid them. They are not safer alternatives to smoking. If you need assistance qutting, contact the Lao Assistance Center, where we have numerous resources to help you and others you care about.