(TLDR: I've been accepted into my dream study abroad program but because of my disability I will need a caretaker to go with me. This crowdfunding will be to send myself and a personal care assistant. I'm hoping that my journey abroad to rural China will inspire other students with a disability to challenge their limitations and study abroad too)
My Name is Houa Moua. I was born and raised in Saint Paul, Minnesota. I am a student at the University of Minnesota, currently majoring in Asian Language and Literature. Recently I was blessed with the opportunity to study abroad in Kuming, China. This program is one that I have waited my whole life for. In this program we will be immersing ourselves in the culture of the Hmong people of rural China. Ever since I realized that my heritage stemmed from roots in China, I’ve made it my mission to get there someday.
To speak about myself outside of school, I am an activist focusing what little energy I have on disability issues and rights. I was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect where there is incomplete closing of the backbone and membrane around the spinal cord. My parents immigrated from war torn Laos in the late 80s. Growing up on the east side of St. Paul where resources were scarce and having parents who were limited in their English proficiency, I’ve always had to advocate for myself in every aspect of my life. This is where my passion for social justice issues stems from. My lifetime of oppression by the majority around me who were able bodied, who had access to resources, where I’d often get the crumbs, has given me the capacity to be empathetic to other causes.
Because this opportunity has been something I’ve waited so long for I’ve done an abundance of research on what to expect and how to prepare to go to the rural areas of China. As a person with a disability I understand that not everywhere is going to be accessible to me. I will need to be in constant communication with our lead instructor and tour guides to find other alternatives should our expedition for the day be ill-equipped to accommodate my needs. I’m already working with on-campus resources to find accommodations to fit my needs during my stay in China, such as housing and medical needs.
However difficult, I am willing to take the challenge. My acceptance into this program will not only benefit me but pioneer the way for future students with a disability to study abroad. I hope that through hearing about my experience, future students with a disability will feel more at ease about going to areas like rural China; places that are not known for accessibility. I hope that they will no limit themselves to only seeing half of the world because of accessibility. Also, by working through this journey with me our study abroad program here at the University of Minnesota could gain knowledge and add on to our variety of resources to better prepare future students with a disability for a better abroad experience.
My plan for this crowdfunding is just to cover the cost of my tuition, and if possible, bring a personal care assistant with me to assist me in navigating the unfamiliar environment. Because I am going to rural China, where accessibility maybe a bit of an issue especially when doing the basic everyday task like using the bathroom; my disability resource adviser, the instructor leading the program, and I, decided that I should bring along a personal care assistant. But I would have to come up with the funds for both myself and my personal care assistant, myself. The tuition for just myself comes up to $7,285. But since I would also like to bring a caretaker with me, the cost for both of us would be close to $14,570. So my ask of my community and network is $16,000 to cover the cost and a little extra for expenses I haven't anticipated. Every little bit helps. Even if you can't donate, thank you for reading thus far and please share with your networks.