Cia Siab, Inc: “Hope is at the center of everything we do”

Cia Siab, Inc. celebrated its 4th anniversary of providing services to Hmong youth, elders, and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in La Crosse County this week. The organization provides holistic support and advocacy to the Hmong community in La Crosse County. 

Dr. Xong Xiong was the Executive Director at the Hmoob Cultural and Community Agency (HCCA) in 2016, when the board of directors abruptly discontinued its youth programming and domestic violence and sexual assault victim services, and returned hundreds of thousands of dollars to funders. Several HCCA employees – including Dr. Xiong – quit in protest and co-founded Cia Siab, Inc. to fill this critical gap in services. Cia Siab, Inc. remains the only fully bilingual, bicultural provider of services for victims of crime in La Crosse county, where the Hmong population is estimated to be more than 6,000.

Dr. Xong Xiong.

What started as a group of volunteers meeting in living rooms and parks to provide makeshift services to youth, elders, and victims of crime has grown into a successful, sustainable nonprofit agency with 21 employees, and a building of their own on La Crosse’s northside.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Cia Siab, Inc. staff have been making weekly deliveries of fresh, healthy food to homebound elders and providing virtual programming to youth.

“It’s been a difficult time for our community,” said Dr. Xiong, noting that financial stress and isolation, combined with a surge in anti-Asian racism, has left Hmong people feeling especially vulnerable and disconnected from the broader community. As she looks ahead to the next four years and all the uncertainty it holds, however, Dr. Xiong doesn’t despair.

Cia siab is the Hmong word for hope, which is at the center of everything we do. We’re continuing to respond to the needs of our community, especially our youth – they are our future,” she explains, noting that the organization recently received funding to significantly expand its LGBTQ+ youth programming. “It’s a collaborative effort with the Center and Trans Law Help Wisconsin, who are providing scholarships and support for legal name changes for Hmong trans youth and adults,” as well as ongoing training and mentoring for staff and program participants. 

In the immediate future, the staff is focused on driving strong turnout for the 2020 Census and helping Hmong voters understand the complicated absentee balloting system in advance of the November election. Their civic engagement work is partially funded by the Tides Foundation, who recently awarded an additional $50,000 in support. Cia Siab also receives major funding for its work from the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, End Abuse Wisconsin, and the Novo Foundation

Eventually, the organization would like to be able to provide safe, intergenerational shelter facilities and comprehensive Hmong language and culture programs to the community, But for now, the focus is on planning for a safe return to in-person programming, and meeting the needs of survivors of interpersonal violence of all ages.

If you or someone you know is experiencing sexual assault or domestic violence, please contact the Hmong Family Strengthening Helpline: 844-740-4292, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

By Jessica Thill. Email questions to lacrosseindependent@gmail.com. Top image: Emily Yang of Cia Siab, Inc., who has been working on boosting census participation locally.

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