EMBARC didn’t exist when Sam Ti Tha Zam first needed it. Sam emigrated from his native Burma after a two year stop in Malaysia, in 2011, two years shy of EMBARC’s advent in 2013. But they were destined for one another anyway. After all, EMBARC was formed with Burma refugees in mind, and their involvement with Southeast Asia is still strong. Its name is an acronym for Ethnic Minorities of Burma Advocacy and Resource Center, after all.
Sam found EMBARC in 2015, while he was still in high school. He worked with them on video projects while he went to Des Moines Area Community College, then formally joined the RISE AmeriCorps team as a macro communications member in 2020, just before graduating with his journalism/digital media degree in 2021.
“I remember the feeling of fear and confusion, not knowing how to navigate” Sam said. “I understand the feelings of hardship.”
That’s what made Sam a perfect fit now in RISE AmeriCorps, where he offered the kind of help genuinely needed.
Through numerous events with high turnout, a new RISE AmeriCorps host site is connecting with communities and sharing Korean culture across Iowa.
Founded in 1978, Korean-American Society of Iowa (KASI) is the oldest non-profit organization of its kind in Iowa to represent Koreans, Korean-Americans and Korean adoptees. Over the last year, the organization has renewed its purpose to bridge Koreans, share culture with the wider community and connect information and resources.
“KASI will now really focus on not only gathering and engaging with each other, but we will focus a lot on how we collaborate and work with other communities in the state of Iowa,” KASI President Erin Kim-Cho said.
In 2022, KASI expanded its scope with a series of partnerships and events, including a K-pop festival at the University of Iowa, a Korean food truck event in Ames and an AAPI Heritage Month event at Iowa State University. At the annual CelebrAsian festival in Des Moines, KASI and the Korean tent display also earned the award for best overall village. The Korean organization educated audiences with traditional music performances, K-pop dance performance, a Korean food demonstration and fashion show.
One event in particular showcased successful leadership by a RISE AmeriCorps Member. In late April, RISE AmeriCorps Member Jiyoun Yoo noticed an opportunity to share Korean culture and food by collaborating with Memorial Lutheran Church in Ames.