Since the founding of Legacies of War in 2004 by Lao-American refugee Channapha Khamvongsa, US funding to clear the 80 million UXO contaminating Laos and assist survivors has increased from $1.3million to $40million in 2021. Twenty-five thousand people have been killed or injured since the bombing stopped. This mighty non-profit has been acknowledged by President Obama and succeeds in making outsized impact facilitating funds that go to organizations like ARTICLE22 partners, MAG (Mines Advisory Group) to clear land and save lives in Laos. The efforts of Legacies are supported by the generosity of private donors, foundations, and the new Trailblazer Collection.
Born to inspire a new generation of advocacy, our intention is for every Trailblazer who wears a bracelet to gift another Trailblazer who will continue the cycle as each purchase brings us closer to clearing Laos of 80 million unexploded bombs.
LEGACIES OF WAR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
MEET THE TRAILBLAZERS OF LEGACIES OF WAR
Legacies of War Founder
There are many, many problems in this world that might not be able to be solved in a lifetime, but this is one that can be fixed. Given that it was ignored for so long, we need to redouble our efforts and finish the job.
I think for many of us who grew up here as refugees from Laos, it really felt that we didn't matter and where our families came from didn't matter. So for a long time, I didn't know much about the history of why we came here and how we got here.
Then as I got older I started to learn more about the immense role the US played in Laos during the Vietnam war era. And it was not a small role at all, but yet no one in the US knew about it. How was that possible? And so as I got older I started to learn more. I went on to do non-profit work and I ended up here in New York working at the Ford Foundation and I was doing work all around the world on justice, but nothing on Laos. One day I met with a grant organization working on democracy in the US. It was a domestic program, nothing to do with Southeast Asia, but it turned out the executive director had a history with Laos. He said a long time ago he worked with a guy named Fred Branfman, “have you heard of him”? I said no and he said, “well he worked really hard to try and stop the bombings in the 70s that were taking place all over Southeast Asia". I was shocked because I didn't think anyone cared about Laos, but yet there was this whole group of individuals here in the US who cared deeply about what was happening in my former homeland. These moments were the original catalyst for the founding of Legacies and connected us to a history that we had lost for so long.
Legacies of War Executive Director
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.
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 as a doctor—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.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. When I’m stuck on a decision, I reflect back on these words.
LEGACIES OF WAR
The MISSION of Legacies of War is to raise awareness about the HISTORY of the Vietnam War-era bombing in Laos and advocate for the clearance of unexploded bombs, to provide space for HEALING the wounds of war, and to create greater HOPE for a future of peace.
The organization uses art, culture, education, community organizing and dialogue to bring people together and create healing and transformation out of the wreckage of war. Legacies is not a direct service or aid organization. We educate and mobilize the Laotian American and broader U.S. public to help us advocate for increased U.S. funding for clearance, education awareness and victim assistance in Laos. With this strategy, we leverage our small budget for the greatest impact.
Our artisan partners are entrepreneurs and agents of change. Each piece helps MAG (Mines Advisory Group) clear some of the 80 million unexploded bombs from their land.