Empowerment Institute, Inc. was founded in 1996 through Connie Cha’s vision and support of local prominent community leaders Juan Arambula, Michele Belanger-McNair, Teng Moua, Chai Lee, and Fong Yang in collaboration with Hmong Community Alliance Church. Joining together to form an organization to meet the needs of the underserved and growing Asian populations with disabilities in the Central Valley.
People with disabilities are deprived of access to comprehensive vocational training, education, health, and meaningful employment services. We are building for a better tomorrow through empowering for independent, developing community capacity and providing job opportunities for people with disabilities.

The Hmong Experience in Asia and the United States

The Hmong living in the United States today came from Laos, a small landlocked country in mainland Southeast Asia. Their ancestors originated in southwestern China, in the provinces of Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, and Hunan. For several thousand years, the central Chinese government dominated by Han Chinese basically left the Hmong (called Miao by the Chinese) alone, as long as they paid their tributes to the Chinese. However, the last dynasty in China, the Qing (1644-1911), founded by Manchus, followed a different policy. Qing armies and officials oppressed the Hmong, who rose in rebellion. In the early nineteenth century, this political persecution, along with increasing population pressure, led some of the Hmong to migrate southward into mainland Southeast Asia, where they settled in the mountainous regions of northern Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

Today there are still more Hmong in China - estimates range from: 2.8 to 5 million, depending on whether one counts only the Hmong or combines all their cognate groups - than in Southeast Asia and the rest of the world combined. There has never been an accurate count of how many Hmong live in each of the Southeast Asian countries. Virtually all those who have settled in the United States, however, have come from Laos, where they may have numbered as many as three hundred thousand in the 1960s. Perhaps half of that number remains in Laos today and little is known about how they are faring. The hundred thousand or so now in the United States were forced to come here as a result of their "American connection," as will be discussed later in this introduction.