Ka Lovang is fifty-four years old. She has lived in three countries—Laos, Thailand, and the United States of America — and currently works in the Sherman Park community as a certified Community Health Worker. A member of the Southeast Asian Educational Development of Wisconsin, Inc. (SEAED), Ms. Lovang typically works with women of Asian descent. However, she has experience working with women of other ethnic communities as well. Her areas of expertise include case management and health education around breast and cervical cancer, diabetes, and cholesterol and blood pressure diseases.
Lovang is married with four children—three boys and a girl. Her husband serves in the church and her daughter works as a Childhood Special Education teacher. Her eldest son is a third-grade elementary school teacher. She is proud that her children have decided to follow in her footsteps of service.
When she was younger, she never lived in one place for more than five years. Lovang's father was a solider, fighting in the Vietnam War. She was ten years old when the communist forces took over Laos. She was the oldest sibling. Fearful of reprisals from the communist soldiers, Lovang's family escaped to the capital Vientiane and then crossed the Mekong River to reach Thailand. In Thailand, they lived in a refugee camp for five years before moving to the United States.
Ms. Lovang recalls some of the activities at the refugee camp and remembers innocently playing as a child, unaware of the dangerous conditions around her. Many children died from illness, so she considers herself very lucky to have survived. The preventable illnesses that consumed refugees and vulnerable people impacted her and led her to her current career.
When Ms. Lovang came to America in 1979, she was fourteen years old. She landed in Sheboygan, Wisconsin. She and other family members lived with her uncle who had sponsored them. She tells us that language barrier was her biggest challenge in the new world. Attending school was a struggle because she had to learn English. Initially, when she was still learning English, she began to work for her teacher during summer as a student aide. Her responsibility was to help with younger kids. This was her first experience of community-engaged work. Today, Ka Lovang remains committed to helping others by providing resources such as translation services, ESL classes, or setting up non-profit organizations.
Life in the Refugee Camp