This is the second in a series by Hmong Times of recollections and images of those who came out of Laos after the war and made their way to the U.S. This series is based on a program where first-generation Hmong Americans have been sharing their experiences in a unique project undertaken by Minors, along with university and high school volunteers in Minnesota, including an entire class at Harding High School. The project is has been done as an effort to preserve the history and to reestablish the unique bond between the oldest and youngest generations
“I was scared, they shot me and your grandpa. We ran in the forest. We were running and the soldiers came and shot at us, and ten died.”
Hard words for a youngster to hear – not the words that come with most students’ homework.
They are from an ongoing collection of Minors Asia, a St. Paul based non-profit organization working in support of exceptionally impoverished Hmong and other highland ethnic minority children in southeast Asia.*
Greatly contributing to this effort, the students of the Advanced Hmong Language Class at Harding High School in St. Paul have been interviewing their grandparents and other family members about their memories of escape from Laos, years in the refugee camps and starting a new life in the U.S.
The students’ interviews were recorded on video, transcribed into Hmong and then translated into English as a class assignment. Their teacher, Ms. Youa Lee, then asked the students what was learned by the experience, and some excerpts follow. Specifically, she asked:
What did you learn or take away from the interview you did through Minors Asia?
I got to learn a lot about my grandma, things I never knew before. I realize how hard her life and journey were. I also do feel like I have gotten closer to my grandma as I never get to see her at all. – Chee
I learned that people my age, we do have it better than they did (people who went through the war). As interviewing my grandfather, it got me to know him better, especially because I would have never known his story if I never asked to interview him. – Beljahnay
Interviewing my grandma, I learned a lot more about what happened during the war and what my family had to go through to get to America. – See
I realized that my people have worked hard to get to where they are today. It has made me appreciate my ethnicity and culture more. – Lori
I learned a lot from this interview. Instead of hearing the same thing over and over from everyone, I was able to learn more about how they felt and their perspectives of the time. I was able to get deeper into their story and have a better understanding of how things were. – Salina
One thing that I take away from the interview that I did through Minors Asia was that Hmong people are a very brave group of people, for a group of people this small. I realized how lucky we all are to be here today. I did grow closer to my grandma, the person I interviewed. – Lee
I learned that refugee camps are tougher than it seems. I realized that Hmong are truly glad to be in America. I know more about the person, but I didn’t get closer to this person. – Geng
I learned that there were a lot of refugee camps for Hmong people and that we were lucky enough to not be in one. I did grow closer to the person I interviewed. – Tou
Do you think it’s a good way for the young generations today to reconnect with the elders? What can they gain from it?
Yes I do, they can gain a lot of knowledge from their elders’ past and learn to appreciate the life they have now because of their elders’ struggles. – Chee
I think it is good to connect with the elders because there are amazing stories to be told. Students can gain knowledge of their history. – Geng
It’s a good way for the young generations to reconnect with the elders. By doing this, they can get a better knowledge of their history than from learning in class. – Salina
I think it’s really important for the younger generation to reconnect with the elders and we could gain a lot of history and gratitude about our past and gain motivation to move our people forward. – Lee
I think it’s a good way to reconnect with elders. It makes us realize a lot, the many reasons our parents yell at us so much to be good people. – Beljahnay
*Please take a look at our website to get a comprehensive view of our program, serving Hmong and other highland ethnic minority children in Southeast Asia: http://minorsasia.org/index.html
The photographs are Hmong refugees as they arrived in Pak Chom district, Loei province, Thailand after crossing the Mekong River from Laos, 1980. Anyone recognizing someone in the photos, please kindly let us know at:
PO Box 17131
St. Paul, MN 55117
Or by email at: email@example.com