Soukita “La” Reagan was happily raising a young family of three children with her beloved husband in the suburbs of San Francisco during the early 2000s. Her world took a sudden turn when she received the shocking news that her parents had died due to a tragic accident in January 2005.
In the Lao tradition, the grieving period would normally last about three-years. In memory of her late parents, La decided to retrace the footsteps of her parents who normally took an “annual vacation” to their ancestral village in Laos in 2008.
La had an awakening moment during the trip to retrace her parents activities. She had witnessed first-hand the amount of hard work and sacrifices that her parents had contributed to help the poor villagers to uplift their daily life.
“I never knew that my parents had contributed so much to help the poor villagers. Mind you, my parents were not rich and they were just regular working class people,” said La.
La had discovered from the villagers that her parents had funded the water irrigation system, schools, farming tools, and fish ponds. These investment allowed the villagers to be self-sustainable. The water irrigation system was critical for the farmers to plant rice and to grow various vegetations.
“I am also humbled and touched by the generosity of the villagers. Despite that they don't have much, the villagers donated money from their little savings towards a memorial fund for my parents,” said La.
The trip to Laos had inspired her to make a returned trip after three months of returning back to U.S. During the second visit, La brought along donations of clothings, dental, hygiene supplies, and medicine to the villagers.
“The entire experiences had brought peace and joy for me. It also helped me in my grieving process. It also inspired me to start thinking of ways to give back more effectively,” adds La.
La's husband had advised her to explore starting a non-profit organization to help fund her mission.
She officially launched Jai Lao Foundation as a 501(c)3 non-profit organization in April 2008 in San Francisco. “Jai Lao Foundation has been instrumental in my self-healing process. It is both a therapy and savior for me,” said La with a wide smile.
The organization currently has a group of dedicated international volunteer board members from Toronto, Atlanta, San Francisco, Nashville, and Honolulu.
Jai Lao Foundation has attracted the attention of Jimmy Keokongsy from Atlanta. “I was attracted by the Foundation's mission and helping the poor community in Laos. Their effort resonates with me tremendously that I had to be engaged,” said Keokongsy who currently serves as the organization's Board of Director and Vice President.
Keokongsy has recently helped raised over $7000 from the Atlanta community in their latest effort to help flood victims from the Lao dam disaster in 2019. The money directed towards food, aid, medicines, and clothings for the victims directly.
Overall, Jai Lao Foundation had raised over $200,000 cash donations from around the world for the flood victims. La confirmed that 100 percent of the money raised were donated to the victims. Moving forward in 2020, La and her team of Board of Directors are working towards building two more new schools in Laos. In addition, they aimed to promote the importance of education in the villages and to help provide flood relief support to the unfortunate.
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For more information about Jai Lao Foundation and their mission, visit http://www.jailao.org