In the picture, from left to right: Ka Vang, Mai Yer Vang, Nou Yang, Mai Choua Thao, Maizoua Vang, and Nou Chang. (Not pictured: Jenny Yang, Pa Dao Yang, Chee Yang, and Mai See Yang)
MINNEAPOLIS (April 5, 2010) – Nine young Hmong American women students at Augsburg College that had to postpone a scheduled December educational trip to Australia to learn more about Hmong Australians plan again to depart in June 2010.Last summer several Hmong students along with staff of the Asian American Women’s Group and the Pan Asian Student Services at Augsburg College started fundraising for an experiential educational trip to Australia in December 2009. The “Global Connections: seeking, seeking, impacting, and building communities” traveling study will be a first hand look at some of the approximately 2,000 Hmong in Australia residing in Melbourne, Sydney, Cairns, and Hobart.
Mai Choua Thao, vice president, Augsburg Asian Student Association, said the Australia learning experience trip was delayed for financial reasons. The group began planning for the original trip with six months of planning and fundraising, and fell short of the goal. Rather than cancel the trip, the group decided to move the trip up to June 2010.
“By allowing ourselves more time, we have been able to fundraise for more money, and we reached our goal to purchase plane tickets in April,” said Thao.
The agenda has changed slightly. The group will reduce their visits to Sydney and Cairns. In Sydney they will meet with Dr. Gary Yia Lee, the Hmong Australian Professor who was a guest researcher and lecturer at Concordia University in St. Paul in 2008. In Cairns, Thao said the group wants the opportunity to visit the banana plantations where many of the Hmong refugee immigrants work as farmer laborers.
While the Hmong in the United States have made economic and mainstream progress, Australian Hmong remain disengaged and isolated from the mainstream culture also institutions. This has resulted in high poverty and extremely low graduation rates according to “New Mountain New River, New Home? The Tasmanian Hmong,” a 2008 Thesis from Margaret Ursula Eldridge at the University of Tasmania.
The Global Connections project will research and examine refugee experiences of Hmong Australians through the exploration of how Australia’s social, educational, transitional, and cultural impact the Hmong community. The students from Augsburg College will lead workshops and activities for local youth around education and leadership.
It is anticipated that Hmong American and Australian students can learn from each other by exchanging ideas and staying connected. The ultimate goal is to foster within the students a sense of global responsibility and connectedness as they strive to become leaders of the world.
Through their participation in this project, the students said they plan to gain a better understanding of who they are within the world. They want to become empowered citizens as a result of their increased capacity to serve others in the global context. During the trip, the students will record their experiences for a documentary video to show to community and supporters upon their return.
Augsburg College students that will spend their early summer in Australia include Ka Vang, Mai Yer Vang, Nou Yang, Mai Choua Thao, Maizoua Vang, and Nou Chang. Not pictured: Jenny Yang, Lor Yang, Pa Dao Yang, Chee Yang, Mai See Yang, and Pa Nhia Vang.
Shoua Moua, who is pictured center in the above photo, is the only original student that will no longer be planning to attend.
“The girls and I are excited to meet, to engage, to bridge and connect, but most of all to learn about the Hmong communities in Australia,” said Thao.
The students are already ambitiously fundraising, and are seeking tax deductible donations from the community, businesses, friends and family. The donations will offset the costs of airfare, lodging, food, activities, and other trip related expenses.
To donate or be a sponsor, please contact Penh Lo at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 612-330-1530. To mail a check make it payable to Pan Asian Student Services and send to: 2211 Riverside Ave., Campus Box 307, Minneapolis, MN 55454.