Reflections on A Gathering of Asian and Pacific Islander Voices

On September 7, 2016 Valley Crisis Center (VCC) and Mountain Crisis Services (MCS) hosted their fostering cultural competency panel titled A Gathering of Asian and Pacific Islander Voices. This event was a partnership and project of My Sister’s House that was funded by Blue Shield of California. The purpose of this event was to learn how VCC/MCS and other agencies can effectively serve and support the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community.

The panelists consisted of three individuals representing different API communities. Participants were Mimi Xiong, member of Hmong Women Today and Alliance for Community Transformations Board Member, Sam Malaythong, Senior Advisor of the Merced Lao Association and Fresno Watlao Buddist Temple, and Reema Singh, University of California Merced student who represented the Punjabi community.  Each Panelist was asked a series of questions to help others learn more about the Hmong, Lao, and Punjabi community as well as gain new ideas on how to better serve these communities. During this event, staff and community members were able to explore and understand more about API communities. Of those who attended, Lara stated, “I enjoyed the opportunity to listen to the panel sharing their experiences from different cultures as well as representing different age groups. Their perspectives were enlightening in assisting me to work effectively with my clients.”  For Sophie this panel “was an eye opening opportunity to learn more about cultures and communities within the Merced community, which we do not normally get to see. I learned a lot about the struggle between 1st, 2nd and 3rd generations – a struggle of tradition and pride, against acceptance and respect.”  Berta reflected on her experience and stated, “I think what I took back from the panel is that there were more people that attended the panel who were in support of seeking change, giving the woman a chance to not experience the emotional/physical abuse that I have heard occurs.  Advocating for change is good, but I think it will be a long process with the leaders from past tradition to reconcile on the education that these panels present.  The panels present a positive means of education and advocating.” Lastly, Laura learned that “it can be very difficult to change the perspective of older generations in every culture, but it doesn’t hurt to inform them of our services. Once we give the information to someone who is seen as a leader within the community and accepts it, others will follow.” The event ended with dinner and discussion. Indian cuisine was available and for some, it was their first time trying this type of food.  Cesilie stated “I have never had it before, but the smell was enticing. However I’m allergic to several things so I wasn’t able to taste any of it apart from the Naan Bread, which was very delicious.” Pana commented that “The food was great!  I’m used to eating curry so I love it.” Valara ended the night by stating that she thought that “the Indian food was Bomb.” At the end of this event, VCC/MCS reflected on this learning experience. We began to strategize new ways to reach out to these communities while being culturally sensitive.  We’re very excited to continue to emerge ourselves in these different cultures so that we can learn more and evolve our services to serve these communities.

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