Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Jai Lao Foundation hosting August 8th Benefit Dinner

One of the organizations to catch my attention recently has been the Jai Lao Foundation, a San Ramon-based grassroots network. 

In brief, they're Laotian Americans who are working together to improve conditions in Laos. I first met them in April during the International Lao New Year Festival, and was impressed by their passion and energy. My good colleague, Laotian American musician Ketsana has been a very strong and vocal supporter of them.

They are definitely needed. One of the great struggles for many positive Laotian American projects is the lack of funding available from mainstream sources and even from within the Laotian community. 

As the members raise funds to support different projects the Jai Lao Foundation is interested in, it is my hope to see many others rise to the challenge and put issues like theirs on the table.

Specifically, the Jai Lao Foundation strives to improve the quality of schools and education for disadvantaged children in Laos. 

In addition, Jai Lao endeavors to support higher education for the children of Lao refugees living in the United States through the provision of need-based and merit scholarships. 

Considering that in 2000, less than 10% of our community had graduated from college, and that over 40% of our population was under 20, the need for meaningful resources for our youth cannot be stressed highly enough. With nearly 400,00 Laotians trying to rebuild their lives here in America, a decisive investment in the higher education of our youth is critical, even as we remember our community abroad.

The early 2000s were devastating for many enclaves of the Laotian refugee community as many non-profits collapsed, often because of funding. 

Having traveled widely across the country these last two years to observe the different Laotian American communities in action, I can say the loss of many of these organizations is a tragic setback. 

But I am encouraged by the passion and energy of members of the Jai Lao Foundation who I expect will set a great example in the coming decades ahead for others to pattern themselves after.

They're a relatively new organization, but they've been building up steam. 

Their website at isn't yet as fully loaded with content as one would like, but many of our best organizations are like this- deep in the trenches and on the front lines of helping others, operating with limited resources that prevent frequent updates. 

I imagine it won't be too long before we see more information about the projects they're taking on. You can find them more easily on facebook at the moment. 

On Saturday, August 8th, 2009, in California, they'll be holding their first fundraiser dinner party celebrating Laotian Art and Culture, "One Night In Laos." The cost to attend is $50, but it's for a wonderful cause, and there will be many fine activities and food for those who attend. 

I'll be going there, and several other amazing voices from the Laotian American community. 

I'm excited about the Jai Lao Foundation's future.  How excited? Well, so excited I finished an all-new collection of poetry because of the energy they generate. That's how excited. When you get involved with them, they really bring out exceptional creativity and positive community spirit. And that's refreshing. 

But you should definitely find out for yourself by checking them out.

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