My involvement with LOP first started when two LOP staff made a presentation to my English-as-a-Second-Language class. They talked about the big explosion at the Chevron refinery and asked us if we experienced health problems because of the lack of emergency information in our languages. I was curious and interested to learn more. I went to the LOP office for a community meeting where there were many diverse Laotians in the meeting: young, old, and all from different Laotian tribes. After the meeting, I thought about what could be done about this problem, and I became more interested in LOP.
Even though I am elderly, not healthy, and uneducated, my heart lies with my family, the Laotian community, and other communities. I am concerned about the issues that affect us all. The challenge and struggle for me is to understand the system of democracy in this country versus the system I grew up with in Laos. I was not aware that the democracy in this country is one where people have to speak for themselves. The more involved I have been in LOP, the more I have learned about how democracy in this country works. My passion for justice, patience, and the opportunity to learn something new after each LOP activity has helped me to overcome this challenge.
LOP campaigned to pressure the County to seek money for the development of the phone-alert system in different languages. In the first year of the campaign, we campaigned to get the County to commit to change the system, but they never put money to make it happen. We had to pressure the County to set up the emergency phone-alert system, because many immigrants live around the refineries and many do not understand English. This is the case for Laotian families, especially for the elderly who take care of their grandchildren at home everyday. The most important thing about this victory is that both the County and the community acknowledged LOP's work on this issue. This is the first victory for the Laotian community, in this County and possibly in the nation.
This is the first time that I have seen Laotians represent themselves in this country and achieve a big victory. Furthermore, this environmental justice victory is important, because it is not only beneficial for Laotians, but for other immigrant communities as well.
I am very happy and very proud to have been involved in the Laotian Organizing Project's campaign for multilingual emergency warning systems where we fought and won a big victory. I have had the opportunity to be involved in many delegation meetings and negotiations with County Supervisors. When I see people such as Supervisor Uilkema, as a woman sitting on the Internal Operations Committee, I think about myself also as a powerful woman. I may not be a Supervisor like her, but I am on the LOP Campaign Planning Committee and proud of what I am doing.
In Laos, mostly the men control everything. In the United States, both men and women know that women have equal rights, but this does not always work perfectly either. Most of our women are interested in the campaign, because we are the ones that have to raise children and have to be concerned about family health. I feel very proud of the Laotian Organizing Project, that we have taken the lead in helping people feel really strong, passionate, and informed about how to fight for our own rights. At the same time, I feel very proud and happy to see many diverse Laotians coming together. As grassroots people, we come to learn together and work together to solve our community problems.
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