It’s not always exciting news when I get a call from Sunny Chanthanouvong, the Executive Director of Lao Assistance Center of Minnesota. But this time it was great news. He got the letter that he was selected as a 2012 leadership Fellow through the Bush Foundation. “Finally”, I told him.
I’ve known Sunny since I was 8-years-old, when I followed my big brother to a meeting at Lao Center. That’s why I wasn’t surprised as much as I was relieved because it’s overdue recognition.
Out of the 30 years that the Lao community has been in Minnesota, only two other Lao Minnesotans have won the Bush Fellowship: textile weaver, Bounxou Chanthraphone and digital artist, Malichansouk Kouanchao. These are achievements to be proud of.
If you’ve ever worked with the Lao Minnesotan community, you already know who Sunny is. He’s one of the only few influential community leaders who will help a fellow Lao person fill out his Medicare forms one day and the next day bring in the masses to a community gathering. His personality is his namesake and he carries his commitment to his community with an infectious laughter.
While Sunny’s still balancing the agency’s functions on a limited three-person team, he will be using the funds to focus on leading civic engagement initiatives in the Lao Minnesotan community. “It’s the key towards our community’s vitality”, he says. I couldn’t agree more and I couldn’t be happier to support him in his journey. The fellowship was well deserved.
From the gang at Little Laos, congrats, Ai Sunny!
Take a look at the full list of 2012 Bush Foundation Fellows:
Asian American Press highlights Sunny Chanthanouvong: