TAI VILLAGE: Refugees Build New Cultural Center

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A group of refugees is giving back to the state that welcomed them with open arms.  The new Tai Village on Des Moines’ north side is more than a decade in the making.

“You see the hills, the rolling hills, it’s very, it’s very similar,” says Steve Baccam.

The landscape reminds Baccam of his family’s homeland in north Vietnam.  These 100 acres didn’t always look so picturesque.

“Before it was a junkyard.  People dumped their trash, burned cars,” he says.

The Tai Dam community spent countless hours clearing the land and making it their own.  Tai Village is the result.

“We want to preserve our culture to show them what our culture is like,” says Baccam.

This weekend, the community will dedicate the Robert D. Ray “Tai House” Welcome Center.  It’s named after the man many in the Tai Dam community see as a father figure.  Governor Ray gave 1500 refugees a home in Iowa.   There are now about 8,000 Tai Dam living in Iowa.

“We want to be grateful to the Iowan that opened their hearts and doors and house to us as a refugee,” says Baccam.

Baccam was in 4th grade when his family came to Iowa as refugees in 1975.

Saturday’s dedication ceremony of the new Welcome Center is part of this weekend’s Tai Village Festival.  It starts Friday evening and runs through Sunday night at 4200 MLK Parkway in Des Moines.

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