Exhibition in Merced sheds light on journey of refugees escaping from Laos

The exhibit will be open through May 29th.
MERCED, Calif. (KFSN) -- This weekend is the Lao New Year, and for the next month and a half, people in the Central Valley can learn more about Laos thanks to a new exhibit.

The exhibition at the Merced Multicultural Arts Center in the heart of downtown Merced takes visitors through the journey of refugees while escaping communism during the Vietnam war.

It's set up in four stations, including Life in Lao, Re-education Camps, Refugee Camps, and Life in the United States.

Tech coordinator and Lao refugee Alisak Sanavongsay was three years old when the war broke out.

His family sought refuge in Thailand and was eventually sponsored to come to America in 1979.

"My mom was pregnant with my brother when we were crossing the river and my dad was still captured in the concentration or seminar camp," he says.

The exhibit, 'Between 2 Worlds; The Lao Experience', has been traveling across California since 2016, but the experience continues to evolve.

At each stop, artifacts are collected from locals, including people in Merced.

"The first Laos family to come here was in 1979, and that happens to be my grandfather," says program coordinator Sue Bangon Emanivong.

For Sue, this exhibit means never forgetting where her family came from.

"I appreciate the struggles my parents made, I appreciate the struggles my aunts and uncles made... And I appreciate being here in a country, the United States, where I have freedom and opportunity I would not have if I was still in Laos," she says.

After Merced, the exhibit heads to Sacramento where it will continue to capture and share an important history and make sure the culture lives on.

The exhibit will be open through May 29th.

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