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The Hmong Institute will celebrate AAPI Heritage Month with annual Hmong Heritage Dinner

(Photo: The Hmong Institute)

An annual fundraiser for The Hmong Institute, the Hmong Heritage Dinner, will bring together families, friends, and community members for an authentic Hmong dinner, a silent auction of Hmong-inspired arts and crafts, and a night of camaraderie on Saturday, May 20, 5:30-8 p.m. at Life Center Madison on Madison’s east side.

“This is our annual fundraiser so it’s an important event. We really want to highlight the contributions the Hmong have made to Wisconsin and Madison,” Peng Her, CEO of The Hmong Institute, tells Madison365. “We have influenced a lot from our food to our culture to our needlework and textiles to our traditional wardrobe that we wear. And then the events in the community that we have .. like the Hmong New Year celebration.

Peng Her with wife, Mai Zong Vue

“More importantly, the Hmong have become your neighbors … they are your dentists, they are your students’ teachers. They might even be your lawyer or police officer that helps you in the community,” Her continues. “So we want to honor that, at the same time recognizing some of the challenges we still have. One of those is making sure that our community receives the culturally competent mental health services that they need because of the [Vietnam] war and that PTSD … in particular, our seniors. And so it’s an opportunity for folks to come and learn about the programs we offer at The Hmong Institute.”

The fundraising event will also be a chance to celebrate Asian Pacific American History Month, enjoy Hmong musicians and cultural performances, and learn more about The Hmong Institute. The emcee of the event will be Michelle Baik, a weekend anchor and reporter for NBC15 here in Madison.

A young Hmong man plays the traditional Hmong instrument called qeej (pronounced “keng”). Traditionally, it was played during festivals and celebrations. However, it is now used primarily during Hmong funerals to help guide the spirit of the decease back into the ancestral homeland and to be reincarnated into the next life. (Photo: The Hmong Institute)

“We’ll have guest speakers that include some of the folks who receive services and we’ll be able to hear about the impact it has had on their lives,” Her says. “We’ll also have a silent auction so folks can come in and buy Hmong-inspired arts and crafts that are made by some of the people in our programs as well as artisans in the community. Folks will have the opportunity to participate in cultural performances, as well as have a traditional Hmong meal that is cooked here by Hmong cooks that isn’t your usual typical chicken dinner you have at a conference center.”

The Hmong Heritage Dinner helps raise funds to support the work of The Hmong Institute’s Hmoob Kaj Siab program which provides mental health support to Hmong, Lao, Khmer, Tibetan, and Nepali elders. It also raises money for food distribution to hundreds of families and the Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program which creates a safe and supportive learning environment for students to enhance their academic skills, prepares them for college and their careers through learning about their native language and culture.

The Hmong Heritage Dinner on May 20 will benefit Hmong Institute programs like the Hmong Language and Cultural Enrichment Program.

“The bottom line with this event is that you are really supporting The Hmong Institute and all the programs we do like the summer Hmong Language and Culture Enrichment Program, teaching Hmong kids how to read and write and speak Hmong so they can do better in school,” Her says. “It will also support programs like our men’s health program along with food distribution we do to over 450 families each month.

“All these are worthwhile causes. As a non-profit, we really rely on the support of the community and donors and individuals who want to donate both financially as well as their time — coming here and volunteering, too, because it takes a lot of volunteers to be able to pack culturally competent food boxes every month for 450 families.”

The Hmong Institute is located at Life Center, 4402 Femrite Drive, on Madison’s east side.

“The Hmong Heritage Dinner is really an opportunity for a community to learn more about the Hmong community and culture, as well as meet folks from the community and share in our experiences, share the impact we’ve had here in Madison and Dane County, as well as being able to learn from our culture,” Her says.


To register for the Hmong Heritage Dinner, click here.