Chairman and Founder, California
In 2008, La went on a two week trip to Laos to memorialize her late parents, where she saw the poverty and hardships children and parents go through on a daily basis. She also felt their kindness and generosity despite having very little means to give. Just three months after, she returned home, La went back to Laos to help however she can. La was deeply inspired by her Mae’s words, “We may not have a lot to give but someone else has less than us so we need to help them.”
The desire to serve and help others has been in La’s heart as far back as a child when she’d be drawn to lend a helping hand to the elders or give a dollar or more to a homeless man. This passion remained with her through college, leading her to get a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from Brigham Young University. After college she started a family and chose to stay home to raise her three children with her very supportive husband.
The teachings and hard work ethics instilled by her beloved Mae and Pa has been the driving force that kept La motivated and driven the past ten years. Despite spending a lot of time volunteering for Jai Lao, La always makes time for her other passions in her life which are spending moments with her family, traveling, gardening, and cooking. Don’t be surprised if La shows up at your doorstep with a koke and sak (mortar and pestle) and ask you to do something quirky with her like go make tum makhoung (papaya salad) at some random place in your city!
Labiep was born on January 1, 1971 in Xaiyaburi, Laos. Her family emigrated to Canada in June of 1978 seeking a better life. As a young child to present day, she was taught to love and appreciate life. Continuing in her father's footsteps, she's a vital member of the board of directors at the Lao Association of Ontario, helping young, old and newly immigrated Lao people in the community of Toronto. Never forgetting her roots, she sought for other people who had similar aspirations to give back and serve the community. This opportunity came when she found Jai Lao in 2009 and has since been volunteering at fundraisers and have gone on several humanitarian trips to Laos. Being the first representative for Jai Lao in Canada, and the newly appointed President, she continues to spread the belief and goals of the organization.
Even though Jimmy was born and raised in the United States, his love and passion for the Lao culture can be seen through his past volunteer work as the cultural director of the Laotian American Society, his continued support to numerous temples, and teaching students across the Atlanta region the art of various Lao Cultural Dances. With a background in public media, Jimmy joined Jai Lao in 2017 in hopes to not only assist the children of Laos but to bring greater awareness to those here in the States about the never-ending needs of those less fortunate back in the mother country. Jimmy’s vision for the future is one where every Laotian American not only continues to lead a productive and successful life here, but also to remember where they came from and to help others so that no Laotian is left behind.
Treasurer, San Francisco
Sass’s passion for helping others, and her belief that education is the key to opportunities, is what drew her to Jai Lao. So after sending her girls to college, she decided that she would like to use what she learned in college and throughout her life experiences to aid and empower the Lao Community, domestically and abroad. Volunteering and giving back to the community has helped her reconnect with her cultural heritage as she learns and grows with other Jai Lao volunteers. Sass is currently a Registered Associate at Emerson Equity LLC and brings a high level of professionalism with over 18 years in financial services. Sass lives in San Francisco, CA and contributes her time and talent by volunteering as Jai Lao’s Treasurer, serving in every capacity that is needed of her at fundraiser events and activities locally and in other states. She is excited to embark on a Humanitarian Service Trip with Jai Lao to see the sweet fruits of her labor of love in the villages of Laos.
Perhaps there is no better person that understands the hardships many Laotians undergo than Phokham. For 7 years, until the age of 11, Phokham maintained strength and hardship from refugee camp to refugee camp hoping and praying that one day she would be able to find a new place to call “home.” In 1991, that day finally came as she, her parents and her 2 siblings made their way to Canada with the help from a loving sponsoring family. Phokham never forgot what she saw and experienced at such a young age and has dedicated the last 20+ years of her life finding ways to help those who share her roots. Her dedication to the Dhammaram Temple and the Cambridge Lao Associates led her to Jai Lao where in 2015 she began giving her heart to help make yet another difference. With an extensive background in event planning and a successful track record in fundraising, Phokham aims to continue to help raise funds to help those less fortunate in Laos and in Canada.
Board Member, California
Michelle Sheffield grew up in Orange County, CA in an area with a large Asian population. Many of her childhood friends were refugees from Southeast Asia. Since the early days of Jai Lao, Michelle felt a desire to help the poverty stricken villagers in Laos, especially the children. She has a firm belief that education is the best way to combat the suppressing forces that keep generations dwelling in hardship. Michelle is a graduate of San Jose State University, with a Bachelors degree in Aviation Flight Operations and a minor in Business Operations. Since 1999, Michelle has done bookkeeping, budgeting and financial tracking for many companies including grocery stores, a flight school, the City of Tracy, CA, and numerous others. She served as the previous treasurer of Jai Lao and has been a volunteer in various capacities since its inception in April of 2009. She feels a deep devotion to helping those in need, for we are all connected as human beings, regardless of the perceived boundaries of race and culture. Michelle lives in the East Bay Area of Northern CA with her husband and five kids.
Project Coordinator, Laos
Sone is Jai Lao’s Project Coordinator in Laos and is the only staff member on the team. She has seen and felt first hand the conditions that vulnerable children live as a local Lao native. Having volunteered with Jai Lao on a few humanitarian service trips, Sone understands the needs of the villages. She is hard working and dedicated to helping carry out Jai Lao’s mission which is to have communities partner up in the projects and contribute what they can. Sone hopes to see more overseas Laotians come back to visit Laos and help in any way because nothing is ever too small. She is married with one daughter and loves spending time with her family. Her newest passion is Jai Lao and serving the children. She is grateful to have this wonderful opportunity to be on Jai Lao's team.