Kayeng Xiong: Youth Volunteer
Kayeng Xiong is a high school student who spends some of his time at Hmong American Friendship Association (H.A.F.A) located in the Washington Park neighborhood. The H.A.F.A center takes initiative in preserving the Hmong heritage. Xiong plays a traditional cultural instrument called the Qeej and performs traditional Hmong dances. His involvement with H.A.F.A. indicates his desire to preserve his culture for himself and for others in order to communicate and teach people about himself and Hmong culture. His experiences as an immigrant gives us an insight into what it is like to be a member of the Hmong community in this neighborhood. Mr. Xiong explaines that, although there are sometimes cultural and social tensions in the neighborhood, he is hopeful that there will be positive change over time. He explained “...if everybody has a moment and isn’t so quick to judge, everybody will get along”.
Xiong volunteers at H.A.F.A and with the Safe & Sound. Safe Places program in an effort to contribute to positive change for his generation and those to follow. He regards trash and foreclosures as signs of a neighborhood in decline and works to ameliorate such conditions. His family buys older homes, refurbishes them and rents them out. He helps his father fix up boarded up homes and maintain rental properties owned by his family.
Mindset and communication go hand in hand for Xiong and he believes it will take many years to get people together and start building a new generation and a new environment. He is still learning to settle in and learning to interact amongst other people and other cultures. Washington Park's dynamic character, made up of many cultures old and new, provides a vital environment for newcomers and immigrants such as Xiong to create their own home. He described his ideal home and community as a place where one feels safe, has fun, and is comfortable with others. For Xiong, the neighborhood lacks some of these feelings. He envisions community as a place where people are neighborly and where there is a support system for residents in need. According to Xiong, as new immigrants, Hmongs may not communicate much outside of their own comfort zone. But he meets people of different cultures at school and says that this cross cultural experience helps him become more open minded and comfortable.
Kayeng Xiong, interview by George Ananchev, Bridgette Binczak and Paula Chinato, June 2014.
HAFA was founded by Hmong refugees to help improve the quality of life for all Hmong refugee families in the Greater Milwaukee area. Global Youth Day Video with participation from H.A.F.A. youth.
Why does Kayeng Xiong volunteer?
Xiong talks about Hmong culture