Xao Her accesses services at Kajsiab House, a culturally sensitive program for the Hmong community that's closing in September. She told her story to the Cap Times at Kajsiab House this week with the help of a Hmong interpreter.
(I came to the U.S.) on May 17, 1980. When I first came here, I did not know any English. So it’s almost like a cow and an ox co-existing. You don’t know my language, I don’t know yours.
I started to come to Kajsiab House because I was very depressed after the death of my husband. The reason I like coming here is because all my peers are here. I was really depressed, and I tell them about my depression and they also shared with me some of the things that they feel, so that makes my heart very blissful, like kajsiab [Hmong word for relief]. That’s why we love being here.
The reason I like coming here, it’s like I cannot breathe at home, and when I come here I can breathe freely again.
If they close Kajsiab House the elders are the people who come here — it’s the equivalent that we would drown ourselves or hang ourselves or shoot ourselves, it’s equivalent to that.
I have a lot to tell you. I came from Laos and then I stayed in refugee camps five years, and then I came to the U.S. In the refugee camps we snuck out to work on the farm. Sometimes people give you land for us to farm on, but at night after we farm, we came home we waited by the road, some would rob us, and we don't like that, that's why we came to the U.S.
I’ve been to Kajsiab House for 18 years, I’ve not heard any bad news that’s caused me to cry so much. This time, I heard this news and this was why I was very depressed and very worried, that’s why you see me crying right now.
What did we do wrong that’s caused them to remove this place? Where will we go? If something happens to us, what will we do?
Being here one hour at Kajsiab House, it goes fast, it’s live five minutes. If I am at home all my children are at work, my day goes so long. I am in prison in the house, and that's why I come here.
Are they closing Kajsiab House down because the participants did something wrong? Have we eaten too much food? Did we not bring enough money? What have we done wrong? Without Kajsiab House here where will we go and see my friends again? I just don’t know what to do.
I get so much support here. With my trembling, I cannot hold a spoon to eat, but all my friends they encourage me, and little by little I eat a little. Sometime when my friend sees me they say, ’"You have to eat." When I’m at home, I cannot hold a spoon to eat even though my children encourage me, it’s not like my friends here. So this is a place for me to be.
Right now at home I cannot even open a bottle of water to drink. Somebody else has to open it and put a straw in it and then take it to me, and I sip because my hand shake so much that I cannot hold bottles.
Kajsiab House has been a place that when I come here my heart is so open, it’s so blissful. At Kajsiab House here when they take us for a field trip, it’s so blissful for me, it’s in a sense very therapeutic. We go to Canada, we go to South Dakota, Washington D.C. When I see those places I am so filled, my heart is so light. I get to see America, and that’s very therapeutic. If you don’t have Kajsiab House anymore I’m not sure what I’m going to do. I’m not sure how people like me are going to survive.
When the Americans came in, they asked my husband and sons to fight in the war. After the war, if we had to remain when the communists came they would point a gun at me and shoot me. They would make the women do heavy work like carry food and things like that to support the communists. That’s why many of the fathers and sons were killed. That’s why my family followed General Vang Pao to Thailand and to the United States. That's why my family decided to escape to Laos and spend some time in the refugee camps and decided to come to the U.S. If we had stayed behind we probably would have been killed or forced into labor.
That’s why I come to the U.S. and I found a place like this to come. My life has been manageable. But if they close this place down and start a new program, will there be a place come see friends just like this and spend the day here? I don’t know.