ESCO Engages Blog

AAPI Heritage Month 2022: Family, Faith and Belonging

AAPI recognizes and celebrates those who are of Asian and Pacific Islander decent as well as the cultures from the Asian continent and the Pacific Islands of Melanesia, Micronesia and Polynesia. 

24 May 2022

Cultural traditions, personal stories and historic impact are all part of the AAPI experience. In honor of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month (AAPI Month) this May, we share perspectives from some of our colleagues whose life experiences have been shaped in meaningful and profoundly personal ways by their family, their faith and their heritage.

Here at Weir ESCO, we are committed to creating an inclusive culture where all of our colleagues are proud of their heritage, can be themselves and feel a sense of belonging. By elevating our own employees’ voices for AAPI Month, we hope to develop a shared understanding and respect for their communities and incredible efforts to make Weir and the world a better place.

Sudhaker Neelam, Applications Developer

When it comes to your heritage, what makes you proud and gives you a sense of belonging?

When it comes to my Indian heritage, I am most proud of the community-oriented mindset it has instilled in me. In India, people build extremely strong bonds with their neighbors, friends and extended family. It’s not uncommon for someone to arrive in their living room and find a neighbor who has let themselves in for a cup of afternoon tea and a chat.

After I immigrated to the US, I joined a network of other Indian immigrant families in the area who share the same heritage, culture and values. We regularly meet for festivals or major occasions to celebrate our heritage. We participate in various religious, cultural and charity programs. We play sports and games together to strengthen the bonds. This gives me a sense of belonging that I am proud of and that I truly cherish.

How do you honor your heritage – an event or tradition? What is it and how do you celebrate? 

India is a land of festivals. One idea behind celebrating festivals is to promote peace, harmony and positivity in life. Every year around September, we celebrate Dussehra festival as part of our rich tradition. The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil. The community gathers in colorful traditional dresses such as Saree, Kurta Pajama, recites scriptures, performs puja (prayers) and exchanges traditional Indian sweets. This is one way we carry and honor our unique heritage, and it retells us who we are and where we have come from.

Cassie Kim, Graduate Program Engineer

How has your heritage shaped who you are today?

Many of our first-generation parents immigrated with little to no money, or English skills, and left their families to pursue a chance at a more prosperous life. I take pride in seeing Korean immigrants who took that momentous leap of faith, and succeeded. I also take pride in Korean cuisine. I love that foods like KBBQ have been popularized! Recently, I’ve been cooking more Korean dishes to feel closer to my heritage and to feel that sense of belonging.  

How do you honor your heritage – an event or tradition? What is it and how do you celebrate?

One of the Korean traditions my family and I celebrate is the New Year. On January 1st, we visit my grandparents’ house in which we eat traditional Korean New Year’s food like rice cake and dumpling soup. We also do something called “sebae.” Sebae consists of wishing elders good fortune for the New Year and bowing to them. 

Maylimi Pakalapati, Planning Systems Manager, Supply Chain

When it comes to your heritage, what makes you proud and gives you a sense of belonging?

It’s been twelve and a half years since I first set foot on U.S. soil. Just as many other apparent, and not so apparent inflection points in life, I remember the moment as if it were yesterday. I have been fortunate to meet and work with the most warm, hardworking and accepting coworkers around the land—so much so that I now call the U.S. home.

What do you want others to know about your background?

Having availed primary education in a modest, grounding and diverse atmosphere—with teachers in parents, educators, friends and even the raw elements of nature—I describe my childhood in India as so precious and integral to my inner child to this current day. If my story so far has taught me anything, it is that the universe does truly conspire to manifest our innermost dreams. I come from a place deprived of basic materialistic means for centuries, but my culture’s focus on education and spirituality provided me with so much.

Scott Muongvang, Senior Design Engineer, Mining GET

When it comes to your heritage, what makes you proud and gives you a sense of belonging?

I’m super proud of my parents who immigrated from Laos to the U.S. in the 1970s. Learning about the difficulties they overcame as immigrants, arriving here with nothing, no food, no money. They took any job they could, usually labor-intensive. It gives me such pride and a strong appreciation for everything they did for us as kids. We struggled, and we were at the lower end of the poverty spectrum. As a kid, I didn’t fully realize that because of the incredible efforts my parents made to provide better opportunities for our family.

 I am also incredibly proud of Lao food. It’s delicious! We are a very close-knit family, and as a child, I remember how food brought my whole family together. All our family would cook together. Sticky rice, minced meat salad, papaya salad and Lao sausages are some examples of Lao food. When I eat Lao food now, I feel like a kid again.

How do you honor your heritage – an event or tradition? What is it and how do you celebrate?   

I enjoy honoring my heritage with my family and friends during the Laos New Year “Pi Mai,” which takes place from 14 April to 16 April …. People from all over the neighborhood join in the celebration, whether they’re from our culture or not. It’s great sharing this tradition with my parents and seeing the joy on their faces as they recall their childhoods.

I also spent two weeks as a monk. This is an honor and a tradition for the males in my culture between the ages 20 and 25… For me, my experience was at our local temple here in Portland. I was proud to participate for my family and learned mediation, how to care for my yellow robe and aspects of Theravada Buddhism. The most difficult part was only eating one meal a day. Overall, I was proud to participate and found it very valuable.

Thank you to all of our colleagues for sharing their amazing stories with us. Today and always, we want to express our appreciation to employees past and present of Asian and Pacific Islander decent for their many contributions to our company. 

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