Michele Svengsouk


In memory of Thavanh Svengsouk


About the Lao Buddhist Foundation of Hawaii

"Unity in Diversity, Sharing Aloha with One and All"

The Lao Buddhist Foundation of Hawaii is a community-based, non-profit organization whose core purpose is to promote and preserve elements of Asian and American traditional and cultural values. Focused on values that contribute to the social, economic, and educational progress and the spiritual well-being of our multi-ethnic communities.

After 10 years of sustained community-wide efforts, our aspiration to build the first Lao community Center/Temple is about to become a reality. Last year we launched our kick-off campaign to raise $1,500,000 towards construction. Donations made to the Lao Buddhist Foundation of Hawaii will be dedicated to the construction of our new Center located near the Sacred Falls State Park on Oahu.

The role of Buddhism has played a pivotal role in the lives of the Laotian people of all ethnic backgrounds. The vision for our new Center, is to create a multi-purpose community center where peoples of all ethnicities and cultures can come together for spiritual support, guidance, civic responsibility and youth counseling. Our Center will serve as a venue for promoting mutual goodwill between the Laotioan community and the other diverse ethnic communities in Hawaii, across the nation and around the world .

Thank you, Khawp Jai, and Mahalo!


Please consider making a donation to the Lao Buddhist Foundation of Hawaii in memory of Thavanh Svengsouk

About Thavanh Svengsouk

April 1935 - September 2014

Thavanh Svengsouk, of Honolulu, Hawaii, passed away on September 1st, 2014 at the age of 79.

Thavanh, known to his friends and family as Van, was born in Vientiane, Laos in 1935.  His father, a Public Health official and his mother, an Elementary School teacher in the French Colonial Administration of Laos, raised him to be inquisitive and an eternal student. Although less than a quarter of his life was spent in Laos, Van loved the people and the land of his birth above all other countries he had lived in; including the United States, Thailand, France and Africa. He was often proud of saying that he married a beautiful and strong Lao woman, Malichanh. She was also from his hometown in Laos, yet they found each other thousands of miles away in the United States.

A retired diplomat, Van served the United States government for 39 years. First, for more than a decade as a Broadcaster in the Voice of America, and then as a commissioned United States Foreign Service Officer specializing in Public Affairs, Media and Cultural/Educational programs. Fluent in 5 languages, Van’s skills as a communicator and his strength as a leader proved to be a good fit for the diplomatic service. In his Foreign Service career, he served assignments in the Philippines, Guyana, Suriname, Central African Republic, Senegal and France. He was also stationed in Washington DC and Honolulu, where he settled after retirement from the civil service.

Although his formal education was interrupted by the Second World War and its aftermath, Van never gave up his almost impossible dream of a university education. His father died at the age of 42, leaving behind a young widow, penniless with 7 children. At that time he was 15 and assumed the role of head of the household.  Van was often fond of talking about his “adventures” in Thailand and Laos. This included a stint in 1951 at the world famous Oriental Hotel in Bangkok where he was a disc-jockey as well as doubling as a “light bulb” boy. With help from friends at the American Embassy in Vientiane, in 1958 he was awarded a scholarship to Columbia University in New York City. He graduated with a Bachelors degree in Economics from Columbia College in 1962, probably the oldest graduate of his class.

Van often shared with his family his strong sense of Duty and Responsibility. His personal and professional life, whether in good or bad times were guided by these two principles. Van was fond of saying that his two sons, Jefferson and Franklin followed in his footsteps in how they conducted their lives and careers.

Van is survived by Malichanh, of Honolulu, his wife of 49 years; and their sons, Jefferson, a doctor in emergency medicine and palliative care, of Rochester, NY and Franklin, an Art Director, of Altadena, CA as well as three grandchildren; Jocelyn, Madeline and Samuel.

Van also leaves behind a wealth of friendships and professional relations. His legacy as a leader continued beyond his retirement, serving the Lao and Southeast Asian community in Hawaii and supporting many International concerns.  He will be remembered for his wit, frankness and fire but most of all it will be for his generosity, kindness and love of adventure.