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A Lao Community that By Amber Inthavong

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f you are a first generation Laotian-American, then you know what it was like going to the temple with your parents as a kid, being immersed in Buddhism, spicy food, loud conversations, and late night parties with old friends. You grew up living that culture. Once your parents immigrated here in the 1970s, they wanted to hold onto every part of the Lao culture they could. When

they came to the U.S., they brought everything about Laos with them! It was the only way they could make it feel like home. Laos people are a tight-knit community; everyone knows everyone else. We come together for every major life event. When there is a wedding, a death in the family, a new baby, or Lao New Years, we all show up. This deep cultural bond may be the most supportive environment in which to grow up. When the Lao Buddhist Temple in Westminster, Colorado had a devastating fire on the morning of December 5th, 2011, you can imagine the impact it had on the community. Once a place for gathering weekly, where monks live and prayer happens, our temple was in ruins. In the seven years since the damage, the Lao community has stepped up our support on a whole new level. We have spent that time creating fundraising events to support the rebuilding of our sacred space. Each fundraiser and party requires tireless effort, prepping delicious food to sell, stocking up on drinks to charge by the bottle, hiring bands and dancers who rehearse for hours to deliver beautiful Lao traditional music and dance performances. All of this is done in honor of the temple. The temple’s Executive Administrator and Project Manager, Sunnie Gist, plays a tremendous part in the rebuilding of our Buddhist temple. Sunnie wears many different hats: she deals with building codes, insurance, safety issues, permits, and serves as the liaison for many community partners. She has been the key to putting on all of the concerts and cultural shows. Sunnie has been involved in the community since 1996, and more recently, she took on full responsibility in event coordination and Plans to rebuild the Lao Buddhist Temple in Westminster, CO communications.

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November 2017 | Feature

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