New Year and new directions


Sabaidee, and happy new year!

It has been a cold winter and there are many days our offices had to be shut down for everyone’s safety. Fortunately today’s technology makes it possible for many of us to help each other. When we were training with Asian American Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy one of the quotes our staff really liked was by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said “everybody can be great, because everybody can serve.” I believe this is an important message for civic engagement to create a democracy.

We are still putting together our plans for the traditional Lao New Year in April. I was elected to be the President of the Lao Community of Minnesota New Year Celebration for 2014. So I will work closely with 30 Lao businesses plus our temples and churches in the Twin cities to coordinate the celebration, which will be a very special one for our community. We cannot do it alone if we want to preserve our tradtions. 

I was elected to be on a Gambling Advisory Committee for the state of Minnesota. My duties will be to provide advisory ideas, input and recommendations with my colleagues on the perspective of the Asian Pacific Islander community and how we respond to addictive gambling. We need to find ways to encourage people to use the services available and to know about the resources that can help people who have a gambling problems. I will talk about this more very soon because it will take a lot to create meaningful culture shift.

We will be meeting with a professor from the William Mitchell Law School to assess the needs and interest from our community for a free legal clinic where elders and community members can get good beginning advice. I am also still trying to find a law student who can work on this as a work-study student.

One of my goals with the Bush Leadership Fellowship this year is an improved sense of self care: To take care my self, my physical and my mental health. It’s easy to forget that. But everyone who is involved in community work needs to remember this. I am very happy to welcome the new members of the 2014 Lao Leadership Institute cohort which is being led now by Alex Phasy, a former president of the Lao Student Association and a member of the first Lao Leadership Institute in 2013 led by Chanida Phaengdara Potter. I believe they will demonstrate good character and learn good skills that can help us all benefit society and democracy.

This year I would like to go out more, at least a monthly engagement with the individuals, community leaders, students, elders, women, business, religious, either one-on-one, in small group, or a larger group the local and national as well as international, also do an online survey to find out their prospective of their civic engagement. I want to hear your ideas about the community meetings, public meetings, neighborhood metings, and so forth and how we can make them more effective, especially when we meet also with your government officials. 

Minneapolis and St Paul rank #1 in the nation for volunteerism, with over 40% of our adults volunteering. I am proud of this figure, but I know we can also do more to diversify our volunteers, especially within the Lao community. We can do so much together. 

I believe that effectively engaging our community in volunteer action is a pth to civic engagement. And engaged citizens are the foundation of a wonderful democracy. Everyone has the power to make a difference and change the world. Good organizations and networks make that change possible, working hard to create excellent experiences with meaningful outcomes. If I had a wish it would be that everyone can see the value in volunteering and can see how it adds meaning to the lives of those we serve and those who serve. When we have more people helping, we increase our ability of public and private organizations to serve our community and continue to be a strong example for our children and our neighbors.