If you're in New York City this Saturday, be sure to catch the Legacies of War benefit, Fashion Meets Philanthropy, which is raising funds for UXO clearance in Laos. The event will be held on December 5th at Civic Hall, 156 5th Avenue, New York City in the trendy Flatiron District.
The emcee is Catzie Vilayphonh of Laos In The House and Yellow Rage, and features the fashion of ModaBox and Article 22, with the cooking of Chef Phet Schwader of Khe-Yo restaurant. This event is historically significant because 2015 marks the 5th year of the United Nations Convention on Cluster Munitions going into effect. Additionally it is the 40th anniversary of the Lao diaspora, which many feel began in December with the government transition in Laos.
A live performance by emerging Lao American singer Lina Luangrath will also be a part of the evening, which includes a Southeast Asian-themed pop-up market. Lao American fashion designer Ari South will also be in attendance, as will Nor Sanavongsay of Sahtu Press.
ModaBox was founded by Lao American entrepreneur Monica Phromsavanh, whose work has been featured on NBC, Little Laos on the Prairie and more. Article 22 has made headline for their creation of fashionable jewelry made from UXO scrap metal recovered from Laos.
From 1964 to 1973, the U.S. dropped more than two million tons of ordnance over Laos during 580,000 bombing missions—equal to a planeload of bombs every 8 minutes, 24-hours a day, for 9 years. Almost 30% of those bombs failed to detonate upon impact in Laos, leaving over 1/3 of the Lao countryside contaminated today, 42 years since the end of the bombing.
Although Laos was officially neutral following the Geneva Accords, the bombing was an effort to fend off the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army, particularly as they made a push towards South Vietnam. The bombing led to the displacement of hundreds of thousands of civilians within Laos. Today, nearly 30% of the victims of unexploded ordnance are children under the age of 12. Many of their parents hadn't even been born by the time the conflict ended.
While the US has been increasing its commitment to help clearance efforts in recent years, more work remains to be done.
Legacies of War executive director Channapha Khamvongsa will be on hand to share the journey of her organization and what's coming up ahead. The New York Times did a profile on her efforts earlier this year. Before founding Legacies of War, she worked at the Ford Foundation and Public Interest Projects, focusing on immigrant and refugee rights, global civil society, civic engagement, capacity building and transformational leadership. She was previously appointed to the Seattle Women’s Commission and served on the boards of the Refugee Women’s Alliance and Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL). She studied at George Mason University and Oxford University. Her Master’s Degree in Public Policy is from Georgetown University.
A limited number of seats are still available to this stellar event. Be sure to check it out and tell your friends to attend. End your year with a great night of fashion, philanthropy, food, culture and community.