PTPI Blog


Discussion Question 2 for The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

April 16th, 2014

Question answered by Eileen Purkeypile.

2. Over the centuries, the Hmong people have been displaced by different groups. What role has displacement played in the Hmong culture?

 Question 2 Quote

The Hmong people have faced displacement since the 1950s – during a civil war, the Vietnam War, and resettlement up until 2009. As a people, the Hmong have faced repression and have been forced to flee several countries while facing discrimination and human rights abuses. I believe this ongoing refugee status has helped make them the self-protective people they are today, especially as seen in Lia’s family.

The Lees are noncompliant to the instructions given by the medical team handling Lia’s case. This is somewhat of a natural response to protect their way of life and health and spiritual beliefs. I believe the the Lees and many other Hmong have become accustomed to doing what they believe is best for their families and their people in light of the oppression they have faced in the past.

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of  PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.


Discussion Question 1 for The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down

April 11th, 2014

Question answered by Karen Hoch.

1. How do you think the author, Anne Fadiman, handled the portrayal of characters and the the tragedy of Lia Lee?

I give the author Anne Fadiman credit for writing this story without judgment.  The detailed and somewhat vivid facts used to chronicle the life of Lia were provided without bias.  She gave the reader the opportunity to understand the Lees – their strong will, history,  love of their family, and worship of their daughter Lia, while at the same time provided ample support for the actions taken by the doctors who treated her.

As a reader, it was hard not to sway between the two sides.  I was angry at the Lees for not understanding the importance of Lia’s medicine; yet also sympathized with them for the heartache they were going through.  They only wanted the best for their daughter. I felt the anxiety of the doctors in trying to communicate with the Lees.  It was clear they wanted the best for Lia as well. Yet, I was also frustrated that they didn’t seek additional help to break down the cultural barriers and attempt to better understand their beliefs.

Clearly, the misunderstanding of the two cultures (Western and Hmong) was the cause of Lia’s tragedy.  It is unknown whether the outcome might have changed if things were managed differently.

Hear directly from Anne Fadiman and learn more about how the book developed in this interview with the author:  http://us.macmillan.com/thespiritcatchesyouandyoufalldown/AnneFadiman

People to People International’s Global Book Club is a way to connect with your global community. Global Book Club members communicate about valuable, international topics and gain unique insight and understanding of various cultural views in relation to those topics. For more information on People to People International, visit www.ptpi.org or PTPI’s Facebook Page. #globalbookclub

The opinions expressed by PTPI staff and other book club members are entirely their own and are not necessarily the views of  PTPI or its Officers, Board of Directors and Board of Trustees.


PTPI Member Spotlight: John Paton

April 8th, 2014

It’s PTPI Member Appreciation Week, and we’re highlighting how members of PTPI are true global leaders who connect across borders.

John Paton is President of PTPI’s Los Angeles, California Chapter. His friendship with Newlove Bobson Atiso, the Lomé, Togo Chapter president in West Africa, is a wonderful example of the difference that can be made by two people who have never met and are separated by continents.

John and his wife, Joan, got involved with People to People International when the Greater Los Angeles, California Chapter hosted visitors from the Roman, Romania Chapter through PTPI’s International Visitors Program. John and Joan followed up that experience by traveling to Romania for a return visit.

Since then, John and his chapter have hosted Open World delegations from Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Moldova. They are expecting another group this fall from Tajikistan. When these delegations visit, chapter members take the group on a tour to showcase places in the Los Angeles area that are of particular interest to them. His chapter is also planning to host three teenagers from Milan, Italy this summer. Though they are fully prepared to host the teenagers and provide some entertainment, he wishes he had families with teenagers in his chapter’s membership. He wants these young adults to have a true American teenage experience.

Members of PTPI's Los Angeles, CA Chapter with the pillowcases they create for children in the community.

John Paton, his wife Joan Thompson (center), and Sonia Vasquez, a social worker at the Children’s Welcome Center, pose with the pillowcases they create for children in the community.

John’s wife, Joan Thompson, leads one of their chapter’s main projects, “People Pillowcases.” This project provides cozy flannel pillowcases to children entering foster care. The kids’ first night away from their family is spent at the Children’s Welcome Center, which accommodates more than 200 children per month. Joan says, “[The pillowcases] provide the children with a small and simple comfort at a time when they are frightened and confused at the upheaval in their lives.” Joan and her team of pillowcase creators recently delivered a record number of pillowcases to the center bringing the total to 1700 over the past year and a half. What is truly inspiring is how she finds people to help sew these treasured gifts. While some are friends from the chapter or her church, Joan has also recruited people while standing in line to buy the huge amounts of fabric needed to complete the project. Funding for this project comes from chapter funds and PTPI Chapter grants*.

Around the same time that the People Pillowcase Project began, John and Newlove really started communicating. John was immediately impressed with Newlove’s passion and leadership in his chapter and his community. Newlove raises money for an orphanage in his community and provides direct help to families dealing with HIV/AIDS. John and his chapter sent money for school supplies to help with one village school. This school accommodates more than 200 students with up to 70 kids per classroom. John explains that the government runs the schools and provides very little funding for operation. The rest of the money must be raised locally.

The structure of the village school is unstable, which was proven by a roof collapse that injured three children. John and Newlove immediately went into action. John and the chapter provided about 50% of the funding to rebuild the roof. PTPI provided funding as well through a PTPI Chapter Grant*.

John Paton celebrates his birthday wearing the gift sent from fellow PTPI members in Togo.

John Paton celebrates his birthday wearing the gift sent from fellow PTPI members in Togo.

Recently, John celebrated his 80th birthday with a PTPI inspired party. He wore a traditional Togolese garment sent to him from Newlove for his big day. Instead of gifts, John requested attendees donate money either to the People Pillowcase Project or to Lomé, Togo to support the schools. John and Joan raised $740 during the event, $440 for the schools in Africa and $300 for People Pillowcases. Meanwhile, across the world, Newlove and seven of his friends got together for a prayer and a drink in honor of John Paton’s birthday. Two people connected by PTPI doing great things together.

Because of Newlove’s passionate energy and strong sense of goodwill, John and Joan feel drawn to visit the Lomé, Togo Chapter and Newlove, so they are planning a trip this summer. The two chapter leaders will finally meet fact to face. 

*Chapter grants are possible thanks to the Hall Family Foundation.

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