DUGWAY PROVING GROUND, Utah -- Unite Our Vision by Working Together was the theme of this year's Asian American /Pacific Islander Heritage Month observance, June 14 at the Dugway Community Club.
The guest speaker was Suzi Feltch-Malohifo'ou the Executive Director of PIK2AR -- Pacific Island Knowledge 2 Action Resources with locations in Salt Lake City, West Valley, Kearns, Provo, and St. George Utah.
This community-based organization's mission is to help Utah's Asian-American and the Pacific Islander community thrive and flourish.
"I see myself as a grassroots organizer working through the Salt Lake City Pacific Island Business Alliance. We build connections throughout the various groups that identify as Pacific Islanders," she said.
Born in the Kingdom of Tonga, at age five, Suzi moved to New Zealand spending her girlhood there. When she was 12 her family moved the Vernal, Utah. Later, while attending college in Northern California she met a much broader ethnic community to identify with.
"They became my passion and my calling," she said.
Feltch-Malohifo'ou spoke avidly about learning to understand the various backgrounds
that make the umbrella that covers Asian-American and Pacific Islanders. She talked about the differences between Melanesians, Micronesians and Polynesians.
She noted that each group has differences in their art forms, their religion, traditional dances, music and foods that are part of their diet. They are a unique culture, but share a commonality of close-knit families.
"It is vital we work to preserve and honor these belief systems, and our local groups here need to be better at highlighting their unique differences," she said.
Felttch-Malohifo'ou emphasizes that this warm outlook is generous and inclusive outlook reflects her grassroots efforts, and her personal interest to help provide resources to native Islanders. She is actively engaged with communities across Utah in an effort to find resources that fit their distinctive backgrounds and life experiences.
"I work to build connections, confidence and trust within the local communities. Of particular concern is showing the importance of education, particularly college, it's the way forward for our boys and girls," she said.
Feltch-Malohifo'ou believes that as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders work together they will expand their Utah communities and their influence will contribute to every walk of life.
She also stresses the importance of sharing personal stories.
"I like to ask people about their families, where they are from, and what their dreams are. Once we know these things we will always find what each culture has in common," she said. "Together we can change lives."
Col. Brant D. Hoskins, Dugway's commander provided the closing remarks and noted the contribution of Asian-American Soldiers. He honored them for having fought and served on behalf of the United States.
He presented Feltch-Malohifo'ou with a certificate of thanks and a commander's coin shaped like the proving ground. It was her first challenge coin.
The Master of ceremony was Vincent Liddiard, Dugway's chief of staff.
The invocation was provided by Chaplain (Major) James Lester who asked that all in attendance remember those on the big island in Hawaii who recently lost their homes.
A tasting table was prepared by the community club staff.