My name is Changvang Her. I was born in Laos and came to this country in 1980 as refugee. Being a refugee, my family came here without knowing which state we would settle in. We first came to Portland, Oregon and lived there for two years, then moved to Merced, California and have lived here ever since.
Our family moved to Merced because there is a large Hmong community here, mostly refugees like myself. I started school and finished school here. I worked as an auto mechanic for 15 years and was involved in the Hmong community as a wedding mediator (called Txiv Tuam Mej Koob). I am on the advisory board for many organizations and recently became a clan leader for the Her Clan in Merced.
Since 2000, I transitioned from being an auto mechanic to a healthcare interpreter. During the 11 years I have worked as an interpreter, I have learned that there are many chronic health issues such as hepatitis, high blood pressure, diabetes, kidney failure, cancer, and mental health illnesses like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and depression that the Hmong community in Merced, and other city throughout the U.S., are facing. As an interpreter, I see that there are many challenges to understanding disease in the Hmong community because of language barriers, lack of patient education and lack of health insurance.