Blia's story is one that most can't even imagine. She was very matter-of-fact as she shared it, as most in the audience hung on her every word.
The Vietnam War ended in 1975, and it was at that time that the Hmong were prosecuted by the communists for helping the United States out in the war. Blia shared that her father was afraid that the communists would take her and her siblings, so he made plans for the family to escape from Laos.
Their plan was to get to the capitol city of Laos and then to the Mekong River, the river that separates Laos from Thailand, which was a neutral country where they could be safe.
The day finally came for the family to leave their village. Blia left with just two sets of clothes and no shoes. Blia told stories about traveling at night, living in attics of people's homes during the day, and selling silver jewelry to help pay off people along the way. It was through chance and circumstance that her family safely made it across the Mekong River and finally settled in a refugee camp where she lived with over 30,000 other people for five years.
Finally, a church in Illinois sponsored the Vang family to come to the United States. They eventually made it to the Eau Claire area after learning more about the resources available to Hmong refugees in this area.
Blia told of her first few months living in Eau Claire. She would go home crying from school because learning English was so difficult. She eventually graduated from North High School, but admits that her English was still rough at that point. She had good conversational English, but she really wanted to work on her academic language. While working as an interpreter, Blia decided to attend UW-Stout where she received her teaching degree. She now works for the Eau Claire School District.
"It was so interesting to hear her (Blia's) story because it was so personal, and she provided such a personal and emotional insight to her experience as a Hmong refugee," commented Natti Marlaire, CVTC Student Services Manager.
Along with Blia's story, students also enjoyed food from Pad Thai. A $5 donation was suggested for the food and $275 was raised for the Japanese Red Cross Society's Tsunami Relief Fund.