Organization: The Thai Association of Iowa
Mission: The purpose of the Thai Association of Iowa is to communicate information of value, organize cultural and social events, and assist the Thais/Thai-Americans and members in Iowa.
1. To communicate information regarding immigration, cultural and social events, community news, and job and business opportunities between members and interested parties through various communication vehicles.
2. To promote Thai culture, traditions and tourism by organizing and participating in CelebrAsian and other Asian community events, as well as providing reference materials and website information.
3. Assist the Thais/Thai-Americans and other Iowan communities with information and services, such as language translation, cultural expertise and resources.
4. Represent the Thai community in the Iowa Asian Alliance.
History: According to recent Census data, Thais make up only about 3% of the total Asian population in Iowa. The Thai community in Des Moines has always been small, loosely knit, and often blending into the local culture. At the inception of the CelebrAsian Festival in 2003, IAA had invited the Thai Ambassador and Consulate to visit. Unfortunately, there was no local Thai organization available to welcome and host the visiting delegation, nor was there any organized Thai participation in the festival. The IAA also received many requests to include Thai food and culture. This omission was soon addressed by some prominent leaders in the local Thai community, and the Thai Association of Iowa was formed.
The Thai Association of Iowa was then able to participate in the 2004 CelebrAsian festival with just a handful of volunteers. They have been enthusiastically participating ever since. Active membership is now around two dozen Thais, and about a dozen or so non-Thais (mostly spouses). Supporting such an extensive program with so few can be an exhaustive process. However, it is agreed that the outcome is well worth the effort, in the goal to increase awareness, understanding and appreciation for the Thai culture and cuisine, as well as those of the other Asian communities in Iowa.
Proceeds from the festival have been used to support flood relief efforts in Thailand and Laos, SE Asia refugee assistance, and foreign exchange students. The organization now serves as official host to any visiting Thai delegations, a contact or liaison to local media outlets on relevant Thai news stories, or to Thai news outlets on Midwest news stories. The organization also provides translation support for local news, governments or businesses.