[Congressional Record Volume 167, Number 200 (Wednesday, November 17, 2021)]
[Page S8342]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]


  Ms. BALDWIN. Mr. President, today I rise to honor Wisconsin residents 
James ``Jim'' and Marty Harris for their humanitarian work in Southeast 
Asia and their embrace of those displaced from that region. These two 
lifelong educators have made it their life's mission to welcome Hmong 
and Lao refugee families to Central Wisconsin, as well as make a 
positive impact for those living in Laos.
  Over the course of more than 20 years, the Harris' have made over 20 
trips to Laos. Beginning in 2000, they began the effort to reconnect 
families from their Wisconsin community with friends and relatives left 
behind when they departed their homeland. During these trips, they 
assisted Lao villagers in desperate need of medical care, helped 
provide hospitals with medical supplies, and provided many Lao schools 
with their very first library, a most appropriate endeavor for the now 
retired elementary school principal and retired English and art 
  However, their largest impact comes with their assistance in the 
removal of bombs, land mines, and other unexploded ordnances that dot 
the Laotian landscape after years of war and turmoil. As Jim told me 
during a visit I made to Laos several years ago, ``Many villagers are 
waiting 40 years for four days of help.'' To address this, the Harris's 
founded the nonprofit ``We Help War Victims,'' an organization that 
assists survivors of war and other conflicts to rebuild their lives. 
With half of its annual budget stemming from fundraising sales of Lao 
coffee beans, it allows paid teams to continue ordnance removal even 
when Jim and Marty aren't able to be halfway around the world. 
Countless lives and limbs have been saved because of this continuing 
work and dedication. Now, villages can enjoy expanded gardens and rice 
fields. This increased agricultural output allows these populations to 
better sustain themselves and provide food for neighboring communities.
  With every trip, Jim returned to Wisconsin with relics and mementos 
gathered during his time in Laos. Slowly, this collection has amassed 
to become one of, if not the largest, known private collection of 
Southeast Asian artifacts in all of the United States. Jim started off 
by displaying some of these items at the school he worked at as 
principal. In 2016, he made the collection more accessible by 
developing an exhibition called ``From Laos to America: The Spirit of 
'76'', which was housed at the Wausau Center Mall in Wausau, WI. Since 
then, more than 10,000 people have visited the museum.
  The ``From Laos to America'' collection now enters into a new chapter 
in 2021. This impressive collection has found a new home in Washington 
Square in downtown Wausau. Jim and Marty have also partnered with the 
Hmong American Center to ensure that this collection remains in central 
Wisconsin. This new home will highlight the full collection and provide 
educational opportunities so the community and visitors alike can learn 
more about the Southeast Asian refugee experience. I am pleased to 
celebrate this important partnership and the new home for this 
important collection, and I am proud to commend Jim and Marty on their 
tireless humanitarian work and advocacy in Southeast Asia and in 
central Wisconsin.