BY ANNE STOKES
The Fresno Center uses social media to educate younger and older generations about the Census
Historically, the United States has been a golden door to immigrants and refugees striving to build a better future for themselves, their families and communities. But it’s not always an easy journey. Opportunities that come in the form of education, democracy and infrastructure help communities thrive. Being counted in the Census helps ensure those opportunities and resources are allocated fairly and available for everyone.
Founded in 1991, the Fresno Center was formed to assist the large number of Hmong refugees immigrating into the San Joaquin Valley. Tulare County’s sizeable Southeast Asian community also includes Laotians in rural Lindsay and the Lahu in the Visalia area. The Fresno Center has transitioned to encompass a multicultural array of services including education, civic engagement, mental health care and more — all that could be impacted by the Census. Program Manager Pao Houa Lee says that many community members may not understand the impact Census counts have on federal funding for local resources like schools and health care as well as voting rights and political representation.
“I think that’s one of the challenges we’re having — some of them are not interested or don’t understand the Census enough to be counted,” she says. “That’s why we’re here, to educate the community of why the Census is so important.”
Lee says that before the pandemic hit, the Fresno Center was actively reaching out to educate the public through informal community events such as family clan parties as well as through local and social media. After COVID-19 hit, they’ve increased their outreach through social media in creative ways such as a Facebook live cooking show (with Census talk as a side dish) and a Hmonglish stand-up comedy show with Census how-to’s in between acts.
Lee notes that the federal funding allocated through the Census count is not a charity hand out. It is, in fact, services and resources that tax payers have already paid for.
“These funds that are coming back to us is money we’ve already paid … these are our tax dollars. If we don’t complete the Census, someone else is going to get our tax dollars,” she says. “That’s why it’s important that we complete the Census because now the money that we paid is coming back to us.”
For more information, reach out to the Fresno Center at fresnocenter.org or call 559-255-8395.