OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- For Sakhone Lasaphangthong, work starts at 5 a.m. sharp. Every day, he takes to the streets of Oakland Chinatown to thoroughly clean the community.
"People come through here to overturn trash cans, kick piles of trash," described Lasaphangthong. "And if nobody cleans that up, people feel like it's unsafe because nobody's taking care of the community."
On any given day, you'll find Lasaphangthong and his team cleaning the streets, abating graffiti, and organizing volunteers. It's all to help restore a sense of public safety and neighborhood pride in the Oakland Chinatown area.
As an Oakland Chinatown Community Ambassador and the director of housing services at Family Bridges, Lasaphangthong dedicates his time to addressing community needs while encouraging hope.
"We're out here at 5 in the morning cleaning and making sure that folks know there's somebody here, that somebody's taking care of the community," said Lasaphangthong. "Somebody's watching, you don't have to be afraid."
After 20 years of incarceration and self-reflection, Lasaphangthong had an epiphany. He made a decision to transform his pain into purpose for the greater good.
"I came from war-torn Laos...we ended up in a refugee camp, my family was separated," he recalled. "I made a lot of mistakes."
He added, "By getting to know myself, what motivates me, what angers me, and developing that understanding, I was able to see myself in other people. And that helped me connect with them."
Lasaphangthong and Family Bridges also focus efforts toward helping unhoused folks obtain shelter, healthcare, and more. By creating a safer environment, Lasaphangthong believes Oakland Chinatown can truly heal.
"That's how the healing process begins is by other communities and other folks acknowledging that Chinatown needs help. And this is unfair, all these attacks." he said.
Lasaphangthong adds, "By being able to protect them from harm, it's like me giving back to my mom who passed away. That's why being of service to my elders means a lot to me."
To learn more and support Family Bridges, visit here.
For more information about the Family Bridges Community Ambassador Program, go here.
Show your support here.
To see more ABC7 Allies in Action, visit here.