|Vol. 13 No. 18
SEPTEMBER 3, 2018
by Jonathan Gramling
by Heidi M. Pascual
Columns & Features
|MMSD embraces the Community
Schools model with gusto
by Jamala Rogers
I first became aware of the Hmong and the role they played as U.S. allies in the Vietnam War back in the late 1980s
when the Urban League ran a multicultural agency training program with Centro Hispano and United Refugee
Services. These were two-day sessions that were given at an agency’s offices. Often times during breaks or before
the program began for the day, the staff of the three agencies would sit around and talk.
And that was the beginning of my “deep dive” into the history of the Hmong and their culture for we talked about
the price the Hmong paid as U.S. allies in the Lao highlands. And then there was the treacherous trek across Laos
and across the Mekong River to the Thai refugee camps. People stayed in those camps for up to a decade or more
waiting for sponsors so that they could come to the United States and other countries. And life in Wisconsin was
so “foreign” to the older Hmong who didn’t understand the customs and couldn’t speak English. They were
isolated in a strange land, suffering from PTSD and other mental health issues due to the decades of trauma that
After I took over at The Madison Times for the late Betty Franklin-Hammonds in 1999, I started covering the
Hmong New Year events held at the Alliant Energy Center during the Thanksgiving weekend. It was a great
exposure to Hmong culture and I made some friends through the event.
And then Kajsiab House was founded in 2000 by Journey Mental Health in their efforts to provide culturally-relevant
mental health services. It was created in two out-buildings on the grounds of the Mendota Mental Health Institute.
After all of these years, I still have a hard time finding Kajsiab House for there is no signage pointing the way and all
of the out-buildings look the same to me painted in institutional white.
Periodically I would write articles about Kajsiab House, attending Thanksgiving feasts and other events. There were
the fundraising galas held at the Alliant Energy Center. And there were moments when Hmong men who fought
with the U.S. would earn their U.S. citizenship. There were always stories to write.
In working on a project for the new Madison College South campus, I arranged for Shwaw Vang from Kajsiab
House to bring a van-full of Hmong elders to Madison College South on August 8th to meet with the interior
designers for the new campus building. The elders were so honored to be invited to talk about Hmong designs and
to learn about the project. It was a joyous time for them. -- READ MORE