I am Mien and I Have a Dream
"What nationality are you?"
"I am Mien."
“Are you Chinese? Are you Vietnamese? Oh, you're from Cambodia.”
These are typical reactions I get from people, when I tell people that I am Mien. Generally, there is lack of awareness of who the Mien people are.
For audience in this room, you'll have a chance to learn about the Mien people, their challenges in society, and what is in the works to address those challenges.
I am Mien. Mien is a minority group with most of its population living in China, North & South Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and the United States. A smaller number of Mien settled in other parts of the world. The total world population is approximately 1,600,000. There is very little written about the Mien people. This is why we are unknown to the world.
The Mien people did not have a formal written language. In the 1940's, the missionaries helped develop a writing system using Romanized script. This system was not widely accepted until it was revised in the 1990s. Because of this late arrival of writing system, there is not much literatures written in Mien language. This makes it difficult to discover Mien history and preserve our culture. It also resulted a large portion of the Mien population who are unable to read and write. This illiteracy prohibits the Mien to advance in society. A majority of the Mien population in the world live in poverty and poor sanitation environment.
Some Mien have migrated to the US as political refugees. The US government granted us refugee asylum because we supported the CIA in the Secret War in Laos. I was among the 25,000 Mien refugees who escaped the communist persecution. In the United States, we were casted into a world of new language, culture, and systems. Since children learned new language and adapted to new culture and systems faster, they became care takers of the families. Children became the parents and parents became the children. Life has been difficult for both the children and the parents.
The first generation Mien who came to the US didn't speak English. They were from the pre-literate society; a generation who doesn't read and write their native language. Gradually, the Mien adults and leaders in the community lost their status. The communities lack leadership and role models. The youth have lost their culture, values, and directions in life. A small number of young Mien were able to weathered the storm of cultural shock, parenting responsibilities, and generation gap issues. They are educated and attained good careers. Still many have drowned in the social storm and deprived education, which prevented them to get a decent job. These young Mien are lost in the bottom rung of the economic ladder. This trend continues from generation to generation until an intervention takes place.
This brought me to establish a global non-profit, known as Mien International Enrichment Network. The mission of this organization is to enriching the lives of Mien people globally. The organization is set to achieve four objectives.
First, is to launch an online Mien Resources Center, which will provide resources to create awareness in the non-Mien community about the Mien people. It will also provide literatures in Mien language to help Mien in every nation to become literate. Literacy leads to education and education leads to opportunity for social and economic advancement in society.
Second, is to collaborate with other organizations, educational institutions, and government agencies; to discover Mien history and preserve our culture. Having awareness and appreciation of one's history and culture develops a strong self-identity for young people. This creates pride in who they are, which will increase their confidence and enhance their success.
Third, is to promote healthy and safe environment in the Mien communities. Good health and a living condition that is safe and sanitized enhances the quality of life.
And the fourth objective is to promote community, economic and social development among the Mien in all nations. Having a common place for people to gather for community functions, cultural festivities, and worship; will create opportunities for fellowship, collaboration, and common goals, which will foster healthy communities. Also, providing a system of sustainability for food production and efficient distribution will help prevent food scarcity and reduce poverty.
In conclusion, you've learned that the Mien people are a small minority group scattered all over the world. They are predominately living in rural areas with poor health and lack of education, which prevent them to prosper in society. The Mien International Enrichment Network is established to address these challenges and to help change the generation poverty trend. I am calling all people to join this global initiative. Together, we can change the world! Thank you!