Apr 02, 2013

Hmong: National Conference In California

Over 1000 people expected to gather for the 16th Hmong National Development Conference in Fresno, California.

Below is an article published by Fresnobee.com:

Young Hmong Americans and professionals from across the country will meet in Fresno this weekend [5–7 April 2013] to discuss ways to move the ethnic group beyond its refugee roots to tackle problems like poverty and education.

More than 1,000 people are expected to attend the 16th Hmong National Development Conference from Friday to Sunday at the Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in downtown Fresno.

Special guests include Mee Moua, president and executive director of the Asian American Justice Center in Washington, D.C., and Seema Patel, senior adviser for the White House Initiative on Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders.

This will mark the second time the conference has come to Fresno. The first was in 2005 when the hot topic was refugee resettlement.

The theme this year is "Journey Forward: The Next Chapter of Hmong Americans."

Local organizers hope to bridge a generational gap between the young, who struggle to balance ethnic tradition with American values, and the old, who still hang on to a war-torn past.

"We're marking the closing of the refugee period," said Seng Vang, the conference co-chairman. "We've been here almost 40 years. It's time to move on and focus" on what the community needs now.

At the top of the list is encouraging community organizations and elders to support Hmong youth, Vang said.

About 44% of the Hmong living in the U.S. are under 18, according to 2010 Census data, which will be shared in a demographics report at the conference.

Many community agencies focus on helping refugees or the elderly, but not on creating programs for youths who need educational and emotional support for success, Vang said.

Other areas of concern include finding solutions for the group's high poverty rate, at 25% compared to 11% of the general U.S. population, the Census Bureau said.

Mental and physical health disparities, housing, employment and education also will be discussed at workshops.

Annie Xiong, a 2010 graduate of the University of California at Davis, is looking forward to her first conference, which she also is helping to plan.

The top issues on her list: education and lack of communication with elders.

"I'm really excited for the workshops," Xiong said "and being able to address the generation gap that has been an issue in this community."