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With a little help, a vulnerable community stays connected

Tou Ger Xiong is using the internet to keep elders in the Hmong community healthy with online conversations.

WOODBURY, Minn. — A Woodbury man has an answer to connecting our older refugees who are at home and not able to socialize right now because of coronavirus.

He says he just needs the help of technology savvy people and the internet.

Hmong Tham Peb or 'Casual Talk' is the brain child of Tou Ger Xiong. It’s where a tech-inclined person helps this group set up a Zoom chat with their friends and you talk about anything.

“This is a unique void in our Hmong American community,” Xiong said.

There are a handful of Hmong senior centers in the Twin Cities that used to serve hundreds of elders on a daily basis. But Xiong said because of COVID-19, they’re closed. He said that’s shutting out a population where a big portion relies on socializing to help cope with their mental health.

The National Center for PTSD said of the few studies about distress over time for refugees, its found, it’s often chronic.

“Studies across the board have shown that refugee elders experience now mental health issues on another level, so this is just more for their mental health,” Xiong said. “Physically a lot of them are OK, they just need to check in with each other,” he said.

That’s why Xiong is asking people who know older folks who might need a little conversation time, to help set up a chat for them.

“It’s for refugee and immigrant communities out there who have a grandma and grandpa that hasn’t had interaction with other elders for a long time,” Xiong said.

It’s easy, free and probably going to be full of belly laughs, Xiong said.

“Just let them at it! Turn it on and let them at it!” he said.

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