Building Community and Preserving Culture

 Monday, July 13, 2015
Dear Friends of the Foundation,

In late June, HmongStory40--a joint effort from many people from throughout the state of California to preserve and celebrate Hmong history, heritage, and culture-- unveiled a preview of their work Southeast Fresno. The opening remarks reminded us that culture is a defining aspect of a person, a group, and an entire nation. It represents stories that have lasted through time and propels the legacy of our people into the future. HmongStory40 began with this idea and a fear that Hmong history - shared through oral tradition - is quickly fading and the next generation of youth are losing out on their culture, language, and history.

Hmongstory40 came about in 2015 with a group of 40 founding donors. Dr. Vicky Xiong-Lor shared how she became involved. As she came up to the stage, she pulled Kyle, her “other half”, to join her. Vicky is one of a handful of second generation professionals that is fluent in Hmong. She shared that many Hmong children speak very little Hmong now, but speak English perfectly. Children think that their family history, their roots, start at -- Clovis Community Hospital, where many are born. When Vicky heard of efforts to preserve their culture, she asked Kyle to attend the meeting. “I said to him, you to go to these meetings and if they ask you to raise your hand, you raise your hand”. They became two of 40 founding donors and contributed $1,000 towards these efforts.

Early in 2015, local leaders of the HmongStory40 group in Fresno approached Fresno Regional Foundation about funding opportunities. The inquiry aligned with a priority of FRF’s Arts and Culture grantmaking program aimed at capturing the rich history of the Central San Joaquin Valley. In May of this year, the FRF Board of Directors approved a $10,000 grant award to HmongStory40 to facilitate these efforts.

This exhibit is the first of its kind in California showcasing clothing, artifacts, documents, and photography that capture a glimpse into the past. The group is also employing multi-media approaches to capture first-hand accounts of the struggles and heartbreaks of the Hmong people exodus from Laos. To date, they have raised over $150,000 and have plans to raise another $100,000 more towards this project. They continue to invite community partners to participate and join in support of this important work through contributions of talent, time, and financial support.

As the Program Officer for the Arts and Culture grant cycle, I was privileged to learn about the importance of this project and explore the many stories, documents, photos, and artifacts that have been collected. We are proud to support the efforts of HmongStory40 in this region. HmongStory40 will be on display at the Fresno Fairgrounds in December and will travel to other cities with strong Hmong communities including Merced and Sacramento in California, and Minneapolis and St. Paul in Minnesota. For more information on this project go to 

Best regards,
Kelvin Alfaro
Program Officer
[email protected]
(559) 226-5600 ext. 105 

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