APL Storyteller - Soua and Nhia

My name is Nhia and my wife’s name is Soua. In 2005, our family relocated to the United States from Thailand as Hmong refugees. With no understanding of the language or the culture, we arrived on American soil, determined to rebuild our lives. Most Hmong refugees who come to the United States have traumatizing experiences; first escaping the war, then struggling with cultural differences, language barriers and the everyday stress of achieving the American dream. Like many refugees, our hope was to begin a career, but we didn’t have the skills. When we arrived, we could barely understand English.

I think education is very important, probably the most important thing. Education is the key to a better life - it opens up opportunities. Here there are plenty of opportunities to get an education, but I didn’t know where to start because I had never gone to school. Soua and I decided to start our education by enrolling at the Fox Valley Technical College. I spend my time at the library studying and reading. I like to come to the library to learn and gain knowledge. The library is like a school, like a museum that likes to preserve information. With a lot of hard work and dedication and a space like the library, I have been able to earn my GED.

My wife has another connection to the library. When she first heard the word “library” she was nervous because she didn’t know what it was and had never been to school. She was eager to learn what a library feels like and looks like. She remembers going to the Appleton Public Library for the first time with our children and the excitement they had of running to the stacks of books in the children’s department. She loves to see our children play at the library and check out books to read at home. She likes to be involved and engaged with our children in storytimes. She wants to give our children a better future. With her involvement at the library, our children learn to love to read.

The library opened their arms. They gave us not only access to information, but also confidence and hope. Without the support from programs like Even Start Family Literacy and the Appleton Public Library, we wouldn’t have been able to change our lives. The library is like a lamp that gives you the light to find your way through in life. And we hope we can be examples of what can be accomplished when individuals are given the resources needed to live a quality life in our community.

Read more stories like Soua and Nhia's here!