Remembering Lao women who build our community



March is National Women’s History Month, when we celebrate  the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. March 8th  was also Interrnational Women’s Day.

As our Lao community in Minnesota prepares for our New Year Celebration on Saturday, April 13th at the Crystal Community Center, I remember the many amazing women who have been staff, volunteers, board members and allies of the Lao Assistance Center over our last 30 years. I am filled with pride to see many of our youth who grew up with our organization go on to wonderful things. We now have Lao women who are lawyers, doctors, nurses, teachers, artists and entrepreneurs setting good examples for everyone. 

Over the years with the help of Phouninh Vixayvong, the now-retired executive director of the Lao Women’s Association of Minnesota, the Lao Assistance Center has worked hard to improve our services. Together we try to help the families who chose Minnesota as a place to live, work, learn and play. Mrs. Vixayvong retired in November and our community honored her at last year’s International Women’s Day Lao mini-festival.

North Minneapolis has been a big center for our efforts. Some of our families moved out of the Twin Cities into the suburbs. That means we sometimes have to do the outreach outside of the Twin Cities. It is not always easy, but together with the Lao Women’s Association, I’m proud of the work we accomplish.  We work hard together on issues such as breast cancer awareness and Hepatitis B education, alcohol and drug awareness, and many other important subjects. It is not something anyone can do alone. We must work together.

So, it was very tragic to me that our community lost Mrs. Kaphet Koracan this month. She was a good role model and a positive example in our community who inspired many of us. She was a long-time board member of the Lao Assistance Center and president of our board for many years.

I will always appreciate her advice and energy, her kindness and good heart, always willing to go above and beyond to help us help our community. She trained with us as we learned from Asian Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy for three years. We  studied the ideas of social justice. She encouraged me to keep getting our community members civically engaged. She understood how important it was for us to have a voice and to preserve our culture. I am so grateful she was a part of our journey.

As I continue to learn from the Bush Leadership Fellowship, the more I appreciate how much we can’t do everything alone. I understand how important it is for us to continue to cultivate new voices, particularly the voices of our girls. I want my daughter to be proud of being part of the Lao community in Minnesota. And I want to make sure we create those opportunities where everyone’s daughters, sisters, cousins, wives, mothers, aunts, and grandmothers can also feel that pride.

When we look at the Lao New Year celebrations such as the Nang Songkran tradition, we are looking for seven exemplary Lao daughters each year who embody the true beauty of our culture, not just the physical, but the graceful, intellectual and compassionate commitment to the community. This is one of our oldest traditions. There’s so much I think we need to appreciate about the many different ways Lao women have built our culture with the boys and men. We should respect that harmony and keep working together to build it and preserve it for the next generation.

We still need volunteers for the Lao New Year Celebration, so if you are interested, please contact us at the Lao Assistance Center and we can tell you what is needed. As we say farewell to the Year of the Dragon, let’s make this a year to remember.