"The most important thing that my parents both taught my siblings and I is that what you leave behind is so much more important than what you take. "
Sera Koulabdara - Executive Director, Legacies of War
If you had only one word to describe yourself, what would it be? Resilient
I was born in the capital of Laos, Vientiane. While growing up, my mother and father traveled a lot and my grandmothers, aunts and uncles often took care of my siblings and I in Pakse & Champassak. We eventually settled in the Vientiane area but immigrated to the US when I was 6 years old. The great Buckeye State has my heart and that is where I call home. Of course, I love Laos and she will always hold a piece of me.
What guides me in life are the many teachings of my mother and father. My mother is one of the strongest women I know. Through her, I learned to stand up for myself and choose my battles.
My father shared painful memories of the devastating effect the Secret War had on him and the people he loved. These horrific experiences led my father to live a life full of love, compassion, and service to others — I hope to carry his legacy to the next generation, create hope, and make a positive impact in the lives of people in my father's beloved homeland, Laos.
On purpose and motivation
I’ve always been a very inquisitive child. I know so much about my family history by asking questions and sitting through countless storytime with my grandmothers - some of my fondest memories!
After we left Laos, my aunts, uncles and parents carried on the tradition of storytelling.
On personal legacy
Three years ago, my father was sick with cancer. I did something very uncharacteristic of my responsible self: resigned from my role at the time and jumped on the first flight to Texas. Best decision I’ve ever made.
I was rewarded with my last precious two months with my father. It was a great honor to hear his last stories - I held on to his every word. Visions of a world twisted by war that haunted him. By sharing, he was letting go of the past, finding peace and the Secret War now held a deeper meaning to me.
That was the moment that I realized I had to do more for my father’s beloved homeland and carry on his legacy.
My natural act or expression of live is TIME. This is what we all have a limited amount of (unless you believe in vampires!). How we choose to spend it says a lot about what we care about and love. I try to be as thoughtful as possible what and who I dedicate each day to.
One funny thing
People tell me I’m short (4’11’’) but I don’t think I am?! Other people are just simply tall :)
On being mindful
Life is fleeting - be around those you love and do the things you love as often as possible. Never be afraid to say “no” to things you do not want to commit to and always ask for help if you need it.
" I live and breathe this history between the United States of America and Laos day in and day out. As someone who is deeply connected to both countries - I have a very unique view."
On The Secret War
So many people were killed or maimed during the secret bombing of Laos by the United States and the danger from the bombs continues to haunt the land to this day. This is a painful history and reality that I struggle to understand and accept.
In so many ways, I know America is kind and has a good heart. Like all of us, she is not perfect. I stand in the middle where the view is gray and constantly evolving.
I am moved by the leadership shown by the US. It makes me ever more proud to be an American. We do not shy away from our responsibilities. We mend what is broken and do right by our country and our allies. It is who we are.
I am equally in awe of the gentle spirit of the people of Laos. I didn’t sense any anger or resentment towards the US . There, it seems that history is simply that, history.
The people focus on building a better future and enjoying the precious moments that is the gift of life. They rally together and welcome the partnership and re-new friendship of the US to once and for all, clear Laos!
What are you most excited about in the next 12 months?
I’m excited about having this incredible opportunity to heal the wounds of war and do the right thing for both my adopted country and my birth country.
On the future of Legacies of War
It’s a strange feeling. Me, the new Executive Director of Legacies. The opportunity to give back to a country that is beloved by so many generations of my family. What an immense honor and grand responsibility.
When Channapha first shared her intentions of retiring, my initial reaction was concern for our mission’s future. Who will carry our work forward? Who is worthy enough? Who will care as much as Channapha? Will they do justice for our mission?
Our mission is so near and dear to my heart, our work is so important, that I wasn’t sure if I would be able to live up to what was needed to continue and finish the mission.
In the end, my love overcame my fear and here I am.
Being the Executive Director immediately following the Founder can be daunting with high expectations and pressure. Our team and I are excited to take on the challenge and have many new avenues to explore, strategies to test, and partnership to build. We can’t wait to dive in and make important progress together!
I appreciate Article22’s thoughtfulness in creating a unique company that not only tells a story but encourages action, provides a space , AND a way for people to get involved.
My favorite collection is The Trailblazer line, of course! I have the Black Diamond Bangle with the engraving "what goes around, come around" as well as the Spheric Seed of Life Drop Earrings. I love jewelry that has meanings behind them.