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Ja Pha



Ja fled Laos when Vietnamese troops came and crossed the Mekong River into Thailand. She met her husband at the Ban Vinai Refugee camp. They arrived in Minneapolis in 1993. Ja has four children including Dee Pha, who created this digital story.




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Immigrant Story: Ja Pha
Written, edited, and produced by Dee Pha. 2014.
[speaking in Hmong] There was fighting and then the Vietnamese came and that’s why we came.
My story doesn’t begin from the moment I was born. It began from the moment my parents crossed the mighty Mekong River from Laos to Thailand into Ban Vinai Refugee camp where they met and got married then and eventually made their way to over to the states, more specifically, Minnesota, where the Mississippi River would mark a new start for them.
The story I want to tell is that of my mother.
Upon their arrival to Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1993, my parents were trying their best to get situated in the American lifestyles. Without understanding English or the American culture, they found their first few months to be very difficult. My mom recounts her experience finding work by saying:
[speaking in Hmong] We went to this place where they help you find full-time work. They helped us find jobs.
Ever since I was a child, I remember seeing this. I never knew what it was, I just thought it was something that my mom cherished. When I asked her about it, this was what she said:
[speaking in Hmong] When I went to school I brought these with me and I sold them to my friends.
She also told me that she made these around Christmas time as ornaments. As you can tell, the green, white and red represent her knowledge of Christmas, along with keeping her Hmong heritage intact with it by using the Hmong embroidered patterns. This item is important to her because it is reminiscent of her first few years in America with nothing and how far she has come since then.