Channapha Khamvongsa, Executive Director
Channapha Khamvongsa is founder and executive director of Legacies of War, an organization that seeks to address the problem of unexploded ordnance in Laos, to provide space for healing the wounds of war, and to create greater hope for a future of peace. The organization uses art, culture, education, and community organizing, especially among the Lao diaspora, to create healing and transformation out of the wreckage of war. Legacies has successfully advocated for an increase in U.S. funding for bomb clearance in Laos, from an annual average of $2M in 2008 to $30M in 2016. In September 2016, President Barack Obama acknowledged Channapha’s advocacy efforts in Laos, where he became the first U.S. President to visit the country. Channapha has written and spoken widely about the secret war in Laos and its aftermath and has appeared in the New York Times, Democracy Now!, CNN, ABC, PBS and CBS News. She previously worked at the Ford Foundation and NEO Philanthropy on immigrant rights, civil society, civic engagement, capacity building, and transformational leadership. She has served on the Seattle Women’s Commission, as well as on the boards of the Refugee Women’s Alliance and the Conference on Asian Pacific American Leadership (CAPAL). She was born in Vientiane, Laos and came to the U.S. as a refugee at the age of seven. Channapha received her Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Public Administration from George Mason University. She received her Master’s Degree in Public Policy from Georgetown University.
Arina Chithavong-Lester, Director of Operations & Development
Arina Chithavong-Lester previously worked at the Fair Labor Association and as a consultant at the UN agency for International Labor focusing on a variety of human rights issues, including migrant workers, child labor and corporate social responsibility. Prior to her work in Washington, D.C., Arina worked as a fellow for the German development agency GIZ in Thailand where she supported the Royal Project Foundation in providing capacity building training to indigenous hill tribe groups in Thai and Lao highlands. As a fellow, she worked on various projects, promoting alternative livelihood skills against opium production and indigenous knowledge in the ASEAN region. Arina was born and raised in Germany. Her parents were refugees who came to Germany in 1979. Arina received her Bachelor of Arts with two majors in History and Social Anthropology from Heidelberg University, Germany and her Master of Arts degree in Sustainable International Development from Brandeis University.
Bridget Johnson, Policy Associate
Bridget Johnson is a recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with a dual major in Political Science and Southeast Asian Studies. Her interest in Southeast Asia arose after spending a year in Indonesia as a Rotary Exchange Student, and further grew from studying the region in its historical, political, and linguistic angles throughout her college years. Her passion for human rights in the region brought her to Legacies. She is a past recipient of the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship and is an alumna of the U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholarship program.
Aven LaRosa, Intern
Aven LaRosa is a recent graduate of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey where she graduated with a double major in Anthropology and French. Her interest in approaching development from an anthropological perspective brought her to study in Khon Kaen, Thailand through CIEE’s development and globalization program in the spring of 2016. During her semester in Thailand, she worked with classmates to identify social factors that allowed farmers to transition away from chemical agricultural practices and provide suggestions for other communities to follow their example. While in SE Asia, she recognized the need for grassroots organizing to solve many problems facing local communities which has led her to pursue a career in the non-profit and/or NGO sector.
Justin Lo, Intern
Justin is a rising senior at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina studying Political Science with a concentration in Law and Justice and Law and Theory. He identifies as a Hmong American Male and aspires to help the AAPI community navigate the legal system. Justin hopes to become an immigration attorney to give a voice to the voiceless and to defend those who really need the law, and those who need the law to protect them. His interest in the legal system stems from his opportunity to study abroad in South Korea while helping North Korean refugees with resettlement. Currently, Justin is applying to law schools and working on his application for the Fulbright Scholars program to achieve a master’s degree in International Korean Politics and Affairs. He believes that as Asian Americans, we should use our success to empower, mobilize and give back to the community that shaped us.
Hillary Phan, Intern
Hillary is a senior at the University of California, Irvine – double majoring in Criminology, Law & Society and Psychology and Social Behavior. Her passions lie in social justice, diversity initiatives, and working in the growing eSports industry. She currently also interns for The Daily Walkthrough (eSports newsletter), and UCI’s eSports Program – creating and running a Girls’ Summer Camp. At Legacies she hopes to learn more about how a small nonprofit grows and affects major change. She’s in D.C. for the summer through the UCDC program at UCI.
Victoria Liu, Graphic Consultant
Victoria Liu is a recent graduate of Princeton University, where she studied International Law and Institutions within the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. She is fascinated by macro-level examinations of the movements of institutions, nations, and individuals. She is the past Director of Marketing at Princeton’s Advertise This, Princeton’s only marketing and advertising club, seeking to explore the abstract construction of image and its effect on audience reception and interest.