My Wausome Story: Finding my Sense of Place in Wausau, MaiGer Moua, Program Director and Community Impact Associate for Housing, United Way of Marathon County 2-1-1
Original publication date: July 17, 2018
I was four and half years old when we resettled in Wausau as political refugees in 1987, after my family fled Laos during the Secret War. While I don’t remember much about this time, I do recall my first visit to a grocery store here. I was overjoyed and dumbfounded by the abundance of fruits and vegetables available. They seemed to represent every color of the rainbow. It was a memorable moment and marked the beginning of my journey to find my place and identity in the Wausau community.
After graduating from Wausau West High School in 2001, the next 11 years were of triumph and change. I earned my undergraduate degree from UW-Madison, and then began working in the state refugee office. From there, I went back to school and earned my graduate degree in U.S. history with an emphasis in Asian American/Hmong American history. I also married my husband. Soon after our wedding, we made the choice to move back to Wausau to be closer to our families, grow our careers, and start a family of our own. At the time, I did not know where I was going to land professionally but I knew with conviction that I wanted to work for and be part of an organization whose mission and vision aligned with my core values and beliefs, many of which started to be shaped as a young refugee living in Wausau.
Following my heart, I found a position with the United Way of Marathon County that matched my skillset and passions. Today, I serve as the 2-1-1 program director and staff support to the Housing and Homelessness Coalition for the organization. In my roles, I oversee the 2-1-1 program, providing free, confidential information and referral services that connect Marathon County residents to community resources and I coordinate collective efforts to end homelessness. My positions allow me to work with an amazing team and have a positive impact on my community. Looking back, I could have chosen a different career path, but I decided on nonprofit and community work. It is my belief that if I want my community to be stronger and if I want my children, loved ones, friends, and neighbors to feel safe, to have a sense of belonging, and to thrive, I have to invest my time and energy into making my community a better place for all. Wausau, and the people who live and work here, have provided me the opportunity to live this mission.
More personally, Wausau has been a great place to raise my three young children. As a mother, events and activities that focus on early-childhood development are important to me, and Wausau has so many great resources. I also love the diversity we have today. Of course, I’d love to see more, but growing up in Wausau in the late 80s and early 90s, it wasn’t very diverse. Today, the community is much more vibrant. We have people from different backgrounds and varying viewpoints that are able to come together and learn about each other’s differences. You can feel and see that people care about each other here.
Much like my first Wausau memories in that grocery store a number of years ago, I’m encouraged by the sense of community Wausau has created. And, just as importantly, I’m happy to be a part of it.
To learn more about MaiGer’s work or the services United Way of Marathon County provides, visit the organization’s website.