The Hmong people prefer shamans over doctors. So one hospital decided to provide both.
True
Dignity Health 2017

When your culture doesn't believe in medicine, how can a hospital bridge that gap and provide health care when you really need it?

That was the Hmong community's dilemma when they resettled in Merced, California. Originally from the rural mountains of southeast Asia, the Hmong mainly worked as farmers before getting caught in the crossfire of the Vietnam War. With the death toll rising, the Hmong were forced to flee to countries such as Thailand, France, and the United States.

All images via Dignity Health.


When it comes to treating illnesses, the Hmong believe in the healing power of shamans — not doctors — to ward off bad spirits, which they consider to be the true source of sickness. Hmong shamans are mediators between the physical and spiritual world and are known to sacrifice animals and go into trances to retrieve wayward spirits and heal their patients.

This method, however, isn't recognized by western culture. So when many Hmong first moved to the U.S., they were understandably overwhelmed by the advancements in modern medicine that some of them were seeing for the first time. Because of that, they would avoid the hospital and only go for treatment when their condition was absolutely critical.

Mercy Medical Center decided to bridge this cultural gap and take a different approach to make their new patients comfortable. Watch how it all unfolded right here:

When cultures blend, wires can get crossed. So when Western medicine practices were getting lost in translation with Hmong traditions, this hospital was there to help.

Posted by Upworthy on Friday, February 10, 2017

There was a huge culture shock on both sides when Hmong community members first made their way to Merced.

Hospital procedures can be a scary thing, but just imagine how scary they can be if they're all new to you. The Hmong weren't aware of the science of the human body and how the body functions. Their language also doesn't directly translate many medical terms, so they often didn't understand what doctors were telling them.

Mercy Medical Center also initially wasn't aware of the practices of the Hmong shamans. For example, they didn't know that shamans tie a string around the wrist of the patient to keep bad spirits away, and, not knowing its meaning, some hospital staff would cut it off.

But as time went by, both sides came to understand that each had the patient's interest in mind, and everyone wanted to find a way to make sure that patients were getting the best treatment possible. The answer? Make shamans part of the hospital culture.

"We wanted to bring the shaman into the hospital because we understand that healing is looking at the person as a whole," says Janice Wilkerson, mission integration director at Mercy Medical Center. "It’s body, mind, and spirit."

Hmong shamans and doctors now work hand in hand to heal their patients.

The shamans are taught how a hospital functions, and in turn, the shamans expose the doctors more about their culture. "To learn more about the traditional belief, the spiritual healer, to listen to them, to see how they do it, how do they help the patient," adds Palee Moua, director of S.E.A. engagement.

Shamans are now able to go through a series of classes that help seamlessly integrate them into the hospital culture. In addition, the hospital allows nine different ceremonies that shamans are able to perform for their patients. Most of these ceremonies involve soft chanting where, according to the shamans, they are able to strengthen the patient's body or, in certain cases, retrieve their soul.

"The doctors respect me as much as a doctor," says Xia Vang, a Hmong shaman who works at Mercy Medical Center.

Other hospitals around the U.S. are following suit and embracing the cultural practices of their immigrant communities.

A 2007 survey conducted by The Joint Commission shows how hospitals around the U.S. are embracing these cultural changes and listening more to the needs of their patients. The survey not only identified the challenges that arise, but also pointed out concrete ways to address them — whether it's fixing the language barrier or employing a more diverse staff. Because of advancements like this, the relationship between health care provider and patient can only get stronger.

That's why we're seeing health care developments such as the Good Samaritan Hospital putting Korean seaweed soup on their maternity ward menu and birthing doulas being provided for Somali women in cities like Minneapolis.

When hospitals, like Mercy Medical Center, provide treatment and respect their patients' cultures, they're able to improve their quality of life in a much more impactful way.

It can be a challenging hurdle to overcome for sure, but when we open our minds and hearts to the differences that other cultures bring, amazing things can happen.

"Whatever issues we have, we should be open and go learn with our western counterparts," adds Xia Vang. "We should not stay at home, or else we won’t see the larger path ahead of us."

Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

True

The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

Keep Reading Show less
True

When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."