STATEMENT: Honoring AAPI Heritage Month | LIRS

STATEMENT: Honoring AAPI Heritage Month

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LIRS Statement in Recognition of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month

Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS) celebrates the history and achievements of our nation’s Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community members. America is blessed by their contributions to the arts, law, science and technology, sports and public service – especially in front-line roles as health care providers, first responders, teachers, and other essential workers.

LIRS is proud to have offered a warm welcome and firm footing to thousands of AAPI refugees over our 80-year history. From Vietnamese people seeking protection after the fall of Saigon, to ethnic Rohingya and Chin families fleeing religious persecution in Myanmar, to those displaced by war in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, we are moved by the resilience, courage, and fortitude these newcomers offer our nation.

LIRS also stands in solidarity with AAPI community members as they face a horrific rise in hate crimes, violence, and prejudice. We strongly condemn racism and white supremacy in all its forms and pray for peace and justice.

At LIRS, our work is rooted in faith and belief in the inherent dignity of all people, representing all races, ethnicities, genders, religious beliefs, sexual orientations, economic statuses, and countries of origin. We all should be able to feel safe while walking down the street, and these recent acts of violence – coupled with generations of anti-AAPI prejudice and institutional racism – are a devastating reminder that our work is far from over.

We pray for the AAPI community and those with hatred in their hearts, but prayer is incomplete without action. We commit, too, to advancing the rights of AAPI people, particularly immigrants and refugees, and centering the AAPI perspective.

“I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.”

John 13:34

CELEBRATING AAPI MEMBERS IN THE LIRS NETWORK

Get to know the stories and perspectives of AAPI people in the LIRS network!

Lyna Ninkham

Employment Specialist at Canopy NWA (LIRS affiliate)

My father (Laotian) was a refugee from the Vietnam War and resettled into the U.S. in the early 1980s and after resettling into the U.S., he went back to Thailand to marry my mother (Thai). I’ve always admired my parent’s resilience and strength to overcome language and cultural barriers that they faced which ignited my passion to be intentional with my degree and career choices when I got older. My parents are entrepreneurs but they became so after many years of working in laborious jobs. Now they have a grocery store and restaurant of their own and give back to the community by providing job opportunities and access to cultural goods in Northwest Arkansas.  

I currently work as the Employment Specialist at Canopy NWA and have been in this role for a little over two years now working with new arrivals and asylees in the community. A fulfilling task that I get to perform in this role is being able to help individuals gain employment after arriving in the U.S. From greeting them at the airport to their first day of work, it’s rewarding for me to see the amount of growth and progress that refugees make in order to start their lives in their new home. It truly is a reflection of their own resilience and strength.  

Our site has resettled a lot of refugees from the DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) which has challenged me to learn more and gain an interest about another culture and history that is different from my own. Growing up in a household with limited English proficiency has definitely prepared me to find creative ways to communicate with one another and with my father’s past of fleeing war and building a new life for himself in the U.S. is a story that I hope encourages new arrivals of the opportunities that await them.  

Sang Pham

Refugee Employment Program Manager at Lutheran Social Services of Northeast Florida

I escaped from Vietnam by a little boat 40 years ago. After being held in a refugee camp in Thailand as well as in Indonesia for a few years, I finally got to come to America.  I had to learn to adapt and adjust with a new way of life here as well as preserve my culture. It wasn’t easy but I managed. In many ways, I feel I can relate to other refugees and understand them better because I was in their shoes years ago.  I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to help refugees with their new life in America. It gives me a sense of satisfaction that I have a chance to give back.   

I’m a refugee employment program manager at LSS. My main role is to advocate and help refugees to become employed and self-sufficient as soon as possible. It’s such a joy to see them progressing and doing much better than when they first arrived. 

We serve a very diverse group of refugees at LSS. We have had refugees from Afghanistan, Burma, Cambodia, Congo, Cuba, Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Haiti, Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam…  I feel I can relate to any of them because I was also a refugee and there is a special connection as we all share a very similar story.   

Explore our AAPI Reading List

Check out these must-read stories by AAPI authors about immigrant and American life! From novels to nonfiction to Young Adult, there is a book for everyone to love! 

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