September 30, 2023

By 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 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!

Sunny Chanthanouvong is the Executive Director of the Lao Assistance Center.