Kajsiab House: Reflecting on 15 Years   
“Congratulations to Kajsiab House for their excellent work, the many lives that have been saved and the continuation of
this amazing, ongoing action,” Xiong said. “Kajsiab House is responsible for the restoration of individual’s health and
many spirits and the motivation to move forward with life. 15 years ago, Kajsiab House was established and has
touched many lives including myself. All I can say is, ‘What an excellent program.’ We all face fear from mental health
illness throughout our lives. We all know that there will always be people and perhaps ourselves who have mental
health illnesses whether we want it or not. Facing mental illness is part of the journey of life. But for one particular
group, our elders, it is especially difficult, those who have lost everything as a refugee, whether it be a wife, a husband,
a child, a language and an identity or military rank or leadership status, education and I can list a lot more. These
elders are prone to severe mental health illnesses such as depression, anxiety, PTSD or post-traumatic stress
disorder, psychosis and suicidal thoughts and ideations. When a Hmong elder develops mental health illness, his or
her body could become disassociated or his or her self could then drift and wander and his or her mind could end up
being mentally disabled. Over time, he or she may begin to have negative thoughts about their purpose in life. They
may believe that the life that they live is pointless.”

Woven within a whole fabric of service at Kajsiab House are professional mental health services with elements of
traditional Hmong daily life, whether it is eating a communal meal together or exercising in the morning. It creates a
sense of normalcy in a very foreign land.

“At Kajsiab House, we work to restore the physical body, mind and the spirit so that the individual can live in harmony,”
Xiong emphasized. “Kajsiab House is successfully fulfilling its mission on a daily basis. They help in the restoration of
many individual’s pride and self-esteem, self-worth and self-motivation to live. Kajsiab House is a home away from
home to many elders. It is a safe place where elders can express themselves without worries.”

Kajsiab House was also a place of normalcy for Xiong as well as he and his family moved to Wisconsin for him to
work, a place where his family was alone.

“We had no other family here in town,” Xiong said. “For those two short years that we lived here, we have more friends
and family members than we had when we lived in California for over 23 years. Dr. Fred Coleman became my
godfather. Others became my mentor and brother-in-law. And all of the elders became my grandfathers and
grandmothers and the staff became my brothers and sisters. All of the memories that I have here at Kajsiab House will
never be forgotten, especially the Tai Chi classes when we exercised, the fascinating stories, the sight of bright smiles,
the sounds of laughter, the long walks that we took down to Lake Mendota, the field trips that we took to the Milwaukee
botanical garden domes, and most importantly, the nutritious meals that we ate every day made by the women. I will
never forget the hard work they put into the feeding of all of the participants and all of the employees at Kajsiab House.
Kajsiab House changed my life and is an important chapter in my life.”

In the time since he left Kajsiab House, Xiong has written an autobiography called Healing Heart that will be published
in November 2015. Xiong devoted a chapter in his book to his experience at Kajsiab House, which means house free
of stress and tension. Xiong read an excerpt from that chapter.

“Everyone wanted to have a farewell party celebrating the success of my new medical endeavor,” Xiong said. “When the
staff and elders of Kajsiab House discussed the party arrangements, my wife and I were financially worried. However,
the staff and elders were very supportive and offered to take full responsibility for the cooking and performing the
celebration ceremony. Dr. Fred Coleman offered to purchase a cow for $1,000 to celebrate the event. A whole cow,
what a relief. He was truly a good man and I learned so much from him, his experience and guidance. Typically in the
Hmong culture, the parents of poor relatives were responsible for financially supporting his celebration. Unfortunately
my father was no longer with us and I did not have close relatives who were able to host such a grand event like this
one. On the day of the celebration, my mother was not able to attend because she was still living in California. We didn’
t have enough money to purchase a plane ticket for her to come. As we celebrated, my eyes began to tear and all of the
elders and all of the staff were comforting me. It gave me the hope and the feeling that my parents were with us. That’s
how much Kajsiab House staff supported people whether you were a patient, participant, staff or a worker at Kajsiab
House. Many blessings were given by the elders and the staff. They all wished us the very best of luck, for good health,
due wealth and security as we journeyed through the next phase of our lives. My wife and I were both thankful to
everyone at Kajsiab House for their love and support.”

In closing, Xiong again expressed his support for Kajsiab House and the importance of its services.

“I urge our local, state and federal government and our representatives to continue to support and fund the Kajsiab
House program because the Kajsiab House program is an exceptional program and needs to continue,” Xiong
emphasized. “I thank you for your attention and may God, Mother Nature and our Forefathers bless each and every one
of you with health, due wealth and prosperity for many years to come.”

Kajsiab House is, indeed, an important mainstay in the Hmong community and a source of mental wellness for people
who have been uprooted and experienced severe trauma for most of their lifetimes. It is a home that must not be
Clockwise from upper left: Dancers perform a modernized
Hmong dance; Kajsiab House’s ShwawVang (l-r) and Doua Vang;
Xa Xiong (l) gives his keynote speech as William Greer,
executive director of the Journey Mental Health Center, looks on
(in traditional dress); 2015 scholarship recipients: Maichoua
Xiong (l-r), See Lor, Pakou Yang, Pang Foua Thao,Sara Thao and
Anthony Xiong
By Jonathan Gramling

For the past 15 years, Kajsiab House has been a quiet, but
very important part of the Dane County area’s mental health
service array. Founded under the auspices of the Journey
Mental Health Center and housed on the grounds of the
Mendota Mental Health Institute, Kajsiab House has been
providing holistic mental health services to the Hmong
community and its members who has suffered significant
trauma in the Vietnam War and their resulting uprooting to

On August 22, Kajsiab House celebrated its 15 years of
service with a reception at the Alliant Energy Center. State
Representative Melissa Sargent and United Way CEO
Leslie Ann Howard gave remarks and six Hmong higher
education students were given scholarships during the
celebration. The primary keynote speech was delivered by
Dr. Xa Xiong who worked at Kajsiab House during its
infancy. Xiong emphasized the important work that the staff
of Kajsiab House perform.