Our Authors

Channapha Khamvongsa, Project Director

Channapha was born in Vientiane and came to the U.S. at the age of 7. In learning about her family’s refugee experience, she came to learn about the history of the secret U.S. bombing in Laos and its continued impact on Laotian villagers today. In 2003, she was entrusted with the historic illustrations of the bombing, which would be the catalyst for Legacies of War. This is her third trip to Laos, and her first since Legacies of War was founded four years ago.

Fred Branfman

Fred Branfman is a writer based in Santa Barbara, California and Budapest, Hungary. He lived in Laos from 1967-71, helped exposed the U.S. Secret Air War there, and edited Voices From The Plain of Jars: Life Under an Air War, the only book to emerge from the Indochina War written by the peasants who comprise 95% of the population. The drawings and essays from the book are part of the Legacies of War exhibition.

Vongvieng Saensathit, Trip Planner

Vongvieng was born and raised in Laos. She has family members who are bombing survivors from Xieng Khouang Province. Her family’s experience and suffering during the War has become the h3est inspiration for her to study about war and peace. In 2005, she won the Fulbright Scholarship and pursued her study in International Security Policy and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University. In the U.S., she learned about the Legacies project and began to get involved. Although she has grown up in Laos, this learning and research tour with Legacies of War will be her first experience to the provinces where she will have the opportunity to witness the grave impact of cluster munitions on villagers and communities and learn about the current infrastructure for bomb removal and victim assistance. Helping people affected by the war has always been her passion, and she believes that she will return from this trip with greater inspiration and hope.

Sakuna Thongchanh

Sakuna was born in Luangprabang, Laos. She came to the United States at the age of 2 with her family. She has been to Laos 2 times prior, the first on a personal journey, the second on a Medical Mission to Laos with the Aloha Medical Mission, and now with the Legacies of War Delegation. She feels it is a privilege and a responsibility to do work with Laos as a Laotian-American, and is honored to be part of Legacies of War. She currently works in the healthcare field and is the Seattle Consultant and recent Schools Not Bombs Coordinator.

Elaine Russell

Elaine is an American citizen from California. On a trip to Laos in 2005, she learned about the American bombing of Laos 35 years ago and the terrible legacy of unexploded cluster munitions. The experience sent her on a new journey to find a way to help the people of Laos. She first offered her time as a writer to assist Legacies of War and now serves on the Board of Directors. She is very excited to return to Laos with Legacies to develop solutions and create a brighter future for the people of Laos.

Phitsamay S. Uy

Born in Houesai, Laos and raised in New England (Connecticut, Vermont, & Massachusetts), Phitsamay is experiencing her first trip back to Laos after 31 years. She had left for the refugee camps when she was four years old. This trip will help her better understand the environmental affects of the UXO leftover as well as the grassroots efforts of NGOs and Lao government agencies. This new knowledge will be incorporated into the Legacies curriculum. Phitsamay is also excited to see the building of Xieng Khouang preschool.

Ova Saopeng

Born in Savannakhet, Laos and raised in Hawaii, U.S.A. this is his third trip to his birthland since he left at the age of 5 years old. He is excited to be a part of this journey with Legacies of War to learn more about the post-war effects in Laos. He will use the experience to inform his creative passion of live performance to share with others. He views this as a learning trip that reaches into the past to give perspective for the future.

Leilani Chan

Leilani Chan is the Founding Artistic Director of TeAda Productions www.teada.org and co-creator of Refugee Nation, a play based on the experiences of Laotian Refugees and their descendants across the US www.refugeenation.com. She is excited to be visiting Laos for the second time with her husband Ova as part of this Legacies of War learning trip. Ideas are blooming–will we expand our show to tell the story of Lao Americans returning to Lao and the stories of the survivors of UXO accidents? Or do we need to write a whole new show or conduct workshops in Laos with amputees and youth? Meanwhile, as a multi-ethnic Asian American, people keep mistaking her for Lao or Thai!

Islanda Khau

Islanda Khau was born in a refugee camp in Kao-I-Dang, Thailand after her parents escaped the Killing Fields in Cambodia. With her family, she immigrated to the United States in 1980. In 2003, Islanda graduated from the University of Washington with a BA in Interdisciplinary Arts focusing on culture, literature, and the arts. With a passion for art and design, she dedicated her time as Webmaster and Graphic Designer for the Khmer Student Association at University of Washington. After working as a graphic designer, Islanda took a position in the education department at Wing Luke Asian Museum, the only pan-Asian American Museum in the country. However, after seeing how faceless Southeast Asians have perpetually been in the museum world, Islanda decided to further her education, and she graduated from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia with a Masters of Arts in Museum Communication this past May. Islanda serves as Legacies of War’s National Traveling Exhibition Curator and as a Cambodian-American, she hopes to change how traditional museums function and make them more accessible to a diverse ethnic audience.

Tim Naughton

Tim has worked in the international private sector, and has been involved with an Arizona-based non-profit called Partners in Action which supports orphanages in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya. As a recent MBA recipient, Tim has joined the advisory board of Legacies of War to assist with financial planning and strategy. Laos is the 27th country Tim has visited.

Brett Dakin

Brett Dakin lived in Vientiane from 1998 to 2000, working for the National Tourism Authority of Laos. Following his experience, he wrote Another Quiet American: Stories of Life in Laos (Asia Books), a memoir of his time in Laos which focuses on the stories of the people, both Lao and expatriate, he met in the capital city.

Vinya Sysamouth

Boon Vong, Photographer