Laotian Group's Quest Ends In Opening of Morris Temple

May 31, 2007

Author: Julia E.M. Halewicz

Source: Litchfield County Times

MORRIS-When Phouvieng Chanla left a refugee camp in the Philippines in 1986 and flew to the United States, she, her four siblings and her parents had nothing. "We started from zero," said the 32-year-old in a phone interview from the New Milford home she shares with her family.

Ms. Chanla, like thousands of other Laotians who have settled in Connecticut, sought refuge in the U.S. in the 1980s-following the upheaval caused by the Vietnam War-through sponsor organizations such as Catholic Family Services.

Over two decades, a quiet community has grown and worked to balance honoring its history and Theravada Buddhist traditions-the oldest surviving school and the one most practiced in Laos-while also assimilating a new landscape and way of life. Temples serve as cultural glue for the new immigrants.

Between June 7 and 10, Ms. Chanla, now married and an employee of Imperial Electronic Assembly in Brookfield, and her family will celebrate the symbol of new beginnings for Laotians in the state with the ceremonial opening of a new temple on the Lao Buddha Ariyamettaram Temple property in Morris. Now the largest Laotian Buddhist temple in Connecticut, it will also host nearly 200 Lao monks from around the country for their annual meeting during that time.

Bounyom Somphousiharath, Ms. Chanla's father and an active member at the temple, spoke through his daughter and said, "All of us are so proud to have this community space. We are so happy to be able to see each other at the temple."