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Laos natives in St. Louis raise money for their homeland

On Labor Day, the Cherokee Buddhist Temple hosted a yard sale and food festival.

ST. LOUIS — Many of us may struggle to point to the country of Laos on the map, but it's the ancestral home for many that now live in St. Louis.

Earlier this summer, dozens were killed and thousands were displaced when a dam collapsed there, but many Laotions aren't letting distance get in the way of helping their homeland.

On Labor Day, the Cherokee Buddhist Temple hosted a yard sale and food festival.

Sam Kahm, a senior student at the temple, organized the effort.

"Why don’t we put the extra stuff that we have, trying to bring awareness to what happened and raise a little awareness to help them along," Kahm said.

Kahm said he doesn't know if any of his relatives were displaced by the dam collapse, but he knew he had to do something.

"When this happened, my heart just sank," he said.

He said many mainstays of his homeland are now unrecognizable.

"Nothing looks the same," said Kahm.

So he asked everyone that worships at the temple to gather up whatever they could, to sell.

For some, that was extra stuff around the house.

"We’re just trying to raise whatever money we have to send to support them," he said.

For others, like his wife Leonara, she put her talents in the kitchen to good use.

"We have the Curry soup with noodles," Leonara said.

They featured home-cooked delicacies you won't find on a menu, using recipes that aren't even written down.

"It takes almost all day to make because it’s cooked at like 200 degrees," Leonara explained, as she puts the final touches on the chili paste they're selling.

People from all over the Cherokee neighborhood browsed the basement bargains.

Some haggled the price - others overpaid to help a good cause.

Sam said he doesn't car what people left with, as long as they took the knowledge about the destruction of his homeland, along with them too.

"Hopefully with what we’re doing here is making people realize that this is happening," Sam said.

If you missed the Labor Day yard sale, but would still like to help the Cherokee Buddhist Temple to help rebuild Laos, you can still donate at the temple's website.

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