Damakant Jayshi

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) paid an official tribute this month to the founders of the ‘From Laos to America’ museum in Wausau and the ‘We Help War Victims’ nonprofit for their humanitarian work.

“I rise to honor Wisconsin residents James ‘Jim’ and Marty Harris for their humanitarian work in Southeast Asia and their embrace of those displaced from that region,” Sen. Baldwin on Nov. 17 in a U.S. Senate tribute tribute. “These two lifelong educators have made it their life’s mission to welcome Hmong and Lao refugee families to Central Wisconsin, as well as make a positive impact for those living in Laos.”

The museum had its grand opening Nov. 20 in its new location at the Third Street Lifestyle Center, 200 Washington St., Wausau. Born of family reunion efforts, the museum, which first opened in 2016 but moved when Wausau Center mall closed for demolition, displays artifacts related to Hmong and Lao life, culture and history. I

“Beginning in 2000, they began the effort to reconnect families from their Wisconsin community with friends and relatives left behind when they departed their homeland,” the Wisconsin senator said. “During these trips, they assisted Lao villagers in desperate need of medical care, helped provide hospitals with medical supplies, and provided many Lao schools with their very first library, a most appropriate endeavor for the now retired elementary school principal and retired English and art teacher.”

Besides founding the Hmong and Lao museum, the Harrises – both teachers in area schools before they retired in the early 2000s – jointly founded the nonprofit, We Help War Victims, which is devoted to the removal of unexploded bombs and ordnance dropped during the Vietnam War on Laotian villages.

Sen. Baldwin said the bomb removal effort saved countless lives and limbs in Laos.

“However, their largest impact comes with their assistance in the removal of bombs, land mines, and other unexploded ordnance that dot the Laotian landscape after years of war and turmoil,” the senator added. “As Jim told me during a visit I made to Laos several years ago, ‘Many villagers are waiting 40 years for four days of help.’”

The Harrises say half of the organization’s annual budget comes by selling Lao coffee beans. The nonprofit also accepts contributions from individuals, community, school and church groups.

(The tribute has been published in Congressional Record. To access it, click here and go to Page 24.)