Amplify Academy – Choua Her

Choua Her

An Amplify cohort has their photo taken at the YWCA in Madison, Wisconsin on March 1, 2019. Beth Skogen Photography –

Choua Her has a B.A. in Sociology and minor in Political Science from the University of Minnesota-
Twin Cities. She has over 16 years of experience working in social services providing culturally
appropriate and sensitive case management, support services, and community outreach to clients of
diverse backgrounds. Her knowledge and experience include statewide quality rating and
improvement systems, child care quality coaching, child care training, and child care policy. Choua
was born in the Ban Vinai refugee camp in Thailand and immigrated to the United States when she
was three years old. She grew up in Minnesota and participated in Hmong American Partnership’s
(HAP) youth programs. In 1997, Choua became the first Editor-in-Chief of HmoobTeen Magazine, a
cultural and social magazine sought to help Hmong teens in the US define and celebrate Hmong heritage while growing up in a multicultural environment.

Choua is passionate about Hmong heritage, women’s issues, community issues, and early childhood education. She has served as Secretary on the board of Empowering Hmong Women, Inc., a nonprofit aimed to educate, inspire, and empower Hmong women for a
better future through lifelong learning. She has also served on the planning committees of several
Hmong-based initiatives including Hmong Professional Networking and Hmong Early Childhood
Summit. Currently, she serves as Secretary on the board of The Hmong Institute, Inc. She enjoys
cooking, traveling, and being a mom to her two young sons. Choua is currently a Program and Policy
Analyst-Advanced in the Bureau of Early Learning and Policy at the Wisconsin Department of
Children and Families.

Get to know Choua better

Why is the work that you do important to the Madison community? Why is it important for you?

The Hmong Institute, Inc. works to empower community through educating, preserving, and
promoting Hmong heritage. It is a community builder, cultural preserver, and educator for
individuals, organizations, and groups that strive to serve and advance the Hmong community in

Wisconsin. THI aims to be a resource for anyone interested in advancing the community inclusive of
the Hmong heritage. THI is committed to ensuring individual desire to learn about Hmong heritage
through educational and professional development opportunities. It provides culturally competent
trainings, technical assistance, and consultation to those working and serving the Hmong
community. We have a strong desire to preserve and promote cultural identity while living and
working in Madison. This is important for Madison because it creates an inclusive community where
ethnic and cultural diversity is embraced and celebrated. It is important to me because preserving
and promoting Hmong culture and heritage gets at the root of my identity. I recognize that what
makes me unique is the beauty of my culture, my experiences, and my traditions. More importantly,
what makes a community special is its people and the cultures, perspectives, and traditions that
they bring and share with each other. Because of this, I am committed to preserving, honoring, and
promoting diversity and ethnicity in Madison.

What is your vision for Madison?

Hmong Women Leadership cohort’s vision for Madison is that Madison honors the diversity and
ethnicities of its people and empowers leaders to thrive and celebrate cultural heritage. We believe
that when the diversity and ethnicities of people are honored, it empowers leaders to help their
own communities to thrive and succeed. When diverse communities thrive and succeed, it will
amplify Madison as the leader in cultural preservation and celebration.

When you look back over your whole life – What experiences have shaped you as a woman? and Why?

I grew up in a traditional Hmong family where my parents spoke only Hmong, they taught me to
cook Hmong food, care for my younger siblings, and to respect my elders. My mom was a strong
woman who worked two jobs to support my family. She always spoke her mind and gave strong
opinions when it comes to family issues. More importantly, she was a humble leader in my clan and
a cultural preserver in my family. She always hosted family gatherings and opened our home to our
friends and family. My mom not only taught me to be a strong educated woman, but she also taught
me to carry on our family and cultural traditions. She taught me how to sew pajntaub, Hmong
flower cloth. I also had a great-aunt that lived with us. She sewed pajntaub all day long in her room
and she also taught me how to sew different patterns. I remember sitting on my front porch in the
evening and on the weekends sewing my pajntaub like Hmong girls and women used to do it back in
Laos and Thailand. When I was eight years old, I sewed my first Hmong outfit. I was so happy, and it
felt so good to be able to accomplish such a big task. My mom sewed it into a Hmong dress for me
and I wore it proudly to the Hmong New Year celebrations. It was such a beautiful tradition but
nowadays no one learns how to sew pajntaub anymore. We buy everything from overseas. Growing
up with experiences like these have helped to shape me into the Hmong woman I am today.

What are some of your practices of resilience? Who did you learn this from and how are these helpful in times of challenge?

To be resilient, you must know yourself. Part of knowing yourself is knowing the history and
background of your people. Learning your heritage, traditions, cultural practices, customs, and
language. Know your values and principles and the things that are important to you. If you know
yourself then you can be resilient in everything that you do and in whatever obstacles come your
way. I learned this from my parents. In the Hmong culture, whenever we meet another Hmong
person, we always ask them what clan they are from, what are the names of their elders, what
region of Laos their family is from. This knowledge gives me a strong foundation. Knowing who I am
and why my culture matters, helps me to be resilient. Whenever I encounter a challenge, I draw on
my background and culture to help me understand the situation and pull me through.

What are some of the things you enjoy the most in life? What keeps you inspired, re-charged and brings you joy?

I enjoy the simple things in life like time with my family, time alone, and a quiet evening outside. A
perfect day would be a day at home with my children playing hide and seek and watching a good
psychological thriller with my husband. I believe that family is the foundation of a strong and happy
life. Therefore, the thing that I value most in life is family. Aside from family, I enjoy cooking and
traveling. I love to cook and try new cuisines. My favorite food is Thai red curry. I enjoy traveling and
meeting people. Traveling gives me the opportunity to experiences other cultures and learn about
other cultures. It allows me to learn and appreciate cultures that are different from my own. It
helps me to be a well-rounded person and get a different perspective on life.

When you think of your life journey unfolding, Who do you see yourself becoming?

I see myself as a strong Hmong woman who bridges her traditional culture with that of her
professional life. My cohort’s motivation for submitting our Amplify Madison proposal came from a
strong desire to preserve and promote cultural identity while living and working in Madison. For our
cohort, preserving and promoting Hmong culture and heritage gets at the root of our identity. We
recognize that what makes each of us unique is the beauty of our culture, our experiences, and our
traditions. Because of this, we must work to preserve, honor, and promote diversity and ethnicities
in Madison. Getting the Amplify Madison grant to accomplish this purpose has allowed us to learn
from Hmong women abroad about how they’ve preserved, honored, and promoted the Hmong
culture within their family, village, the larger community, and internationally. Hmong culture has
evolved over the years, but it will always be part of me. It is the essence of who I am, and I must do
my part to preserve and celebrate it for future generations.

Hmong Women's Leadership