Newsletter: A BAAN to Call Home
Posted: Sep 28, 2021
Top to bottom left: Troy’s maternal Grandmother’s funeral in the 80s sent by relatives in Laos, Troy’s family in Arkansas during the 80s including a family road trip, picnic, and reunion.
From the pen and camera of Troy Sayakumane, Founder of BAAN
My story begins in a Thai refugee camp in 1976, where I was born after my parents fled the Secret War in Laos. We lived in the camp for two years before being assigned a place of settlement in Amarillo, TX. Within a decade, despite speaking little to no English, my parents and their community of fellow Lao refugees established a thriving Laotian village smack dab in the middle of the Bible Belt.
I’m a proud product of that community. After graduating from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Advertising, I worked in San Francisco and New York for 10 years. I went back to school in 2011 and obtained a degree in Interior Design from Parsons, and have been working as an Interior Designer/Architect for top firms in New York and Los Angeles ever since.
During the pandemic, I had time to reflect and realized I wanted to use my skill sets to do good in the world. I thought about the strength of communities and the near-impossible feats accomplished daily by essential workers, many of whom are immigrants. I thought about the Lao community.
My parents’ origin story is the genesis for BAAN, which means “home” in Lao. I wanted to design a community-driven health and wellness eco-retreat inspired by the strength and resilience of the Lao people and the joy of village-living in Laos. BAAN will be located in the high desert of Southern California, a healing place where guests can convene with nature, meditate under the stars, and experience community through the Lao lens, or “philLAOSophy.”
There is a Lao phrase, “Hak Pang Gon,” which means “to care for others.” This philosophy is what drives BAAN, and what gives me the motivation to push this project forward. In my eyes, BAAN will be successful if I am able to spotlight the Lao lived experience and give visibility to a group who has been largely overlooked in U.S. history. BAAN celebrates our Lao heritage, but never forgets our past.
In the eight months since I’ve begun working on this project, I have been able to connect with many members of the Laotian community, including an alliance with Legacies of War. It is BAAN’s mission to partner with people, companies, and organizations that are making a social impact, and Legacies of War is doing important work amplifying the story of the secret war in Laos.
I welcome everyone to learn more about BAAN here.