–submitted by Joy Cardin
G THAO was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after his family escaped Laos following the end of the Vietnam War. The Hmong people were allies with the U.S. in fighting the Communist invasion in South East Asia and faced persecution after the fall of Saigon. Thao’s family first resettled in Texas in 1984, where they faced anti-immigrant sentiment, in part because people didn’t understand the relationship between the U.S. and Hmong people. His family moved to Madison two years later for better economic and educational opportunities.
Thao shared the challenges of growing up with his family of twelve in a three bedroom apartment on Northport Drive in Madison. And he noted the different challenges faced by his children. His children had a much easier time learning English, but now they don’t know the Hmong language, and there is a concern young people in the Hmong community are losing touch with their culture. There are also health care and educational disparities that need to be addressed. Still, Thao is optimistic for the future and the growing Hmong community in Madison and Dane County.
He invited Rotarians to volunteer and participate in Hmong community events, like the Hmong New Year celebration in November.
If you missed our meeting this week, you can watch the video here: https://youtu.be/IJD2f_n5HEI.