Hmong Women’s Conference set for Saturday

Merced’s first Hmong Women’s Conference, scheduled for Saturday, will offer members of the Hmong community resources on health, education and civic engagement.

“Honoring Our Roots, Embracing Our Future” will run from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Gateway Community Church, 353 E. Donna Drive in Merced.

The event is organized by the Merced County Human Services Agency and various community partners. Organizers hope that by engaging Hmong women they can learn how to better serve the Hmong community at large.

“The Hmong community is underserved,” said Kimiko Vang, the agency’s program administrator. “The premise of this event is to target women because women play a crucial role in Hmong families and communities.”

The event’s keynote speaker will be Bao Vang, president of Hmong American Partnership, a nonprofit agency in St. Paul, Minn., and the largest social services agency supporting the Hmong community. Vang also serves as president of Hmong National Development, a national advocacy organization in Washington, D.C.

The conference will offer 12 different workshops that attendees can choose from.

One of the workshops will be presented by clinicians of the Merced County Mental Health Department. According to Vang, the clinicians will teach families how to navigate the mental health system, as well as address the stigma associated with mental illnesses.

Another workshop, presented by Lesley Xiong, a family doctor at Mercy Medical Center, will focus on screening services and how to prevent some of the most prevalent diseases.

Meanwhile, representatives from the Merced County Office of Education will speak about Common Core state standards and expectations for kindergarten through 12th-grade students. Other topics to be covered will include: the Affordable Care Act, résumé writing and professional development.

Entertainment will be provided by dancers and musical guests who will perform traditional Hmong pieces.

Vang anticipates the event will draw people from across the Central Valley. Besides Merced residents, large groups from Fresno and Sacramento have registered for the conference. As of Wednesday, 350 people had registered..

Although the event is designed to address issues in the Hmong community, the conference is open to everyone. A limited number of headsets for translation purposes will be available to non-Hmong speakers.