Recently Charles and I returned from San Francisco where I spoke on a symposium panel about refugee rights with the Rotary Club. It was a well-organized and well-run event. It’s obvious that the Rotarians in San Francisco play their part to help alleviate suffering in the world.
While I was there, I recorded the interview of Denise Tan’s mother, Sotheavy, about her amazing survival story. Denise mad wonderful introductions for me to the Cambodian community in the Bay Area including the dynamic community leader Elizabeth Sy who founded Banteay Srei and social worker Limyi Heng.
Also through Denise, we met David Nakabayashi, Creative Director an Industrial Light and Magic. He gave us a private tour of George Lucas’s amazing special effects studio. It was a great thrill and we’ve already made many of our friends and family jealous. Thanks to David and his staff for their generosity.
And thank you to our wonderful friends Stephanie Morimoto and Matt King for hosting us in their beautiful home.
This past weekend, I conducted a focus group in Lowell, MA, the second largest Cambodian community in the country. I regret not doing it a long time ago when I first conceived of Khmer Legacies.
With the help of Harry Schnur from the Lynn Community Health Center, Khmer Legacies Board members Sonith Peou and Samkhann Khoeun, Linda Sou of Lowell community Health, we conducted two separate focus groups – one with the older generation and one with the younger generation.
The reactions we got to the work of Khmer Legacies was overwhelmingly positive. Yes, this is important work and someone should be doing it. Yet there seemed to be so many questions about readiness. Are older survivors ready to talk? Is the younger generation ready to listen?
I began to question the nature of leadership itself. Is it the role of Khmer Legacise to draw the community toward a highre level of consciousness and contribution? Is that a presumptuous and potentially dangerous position given the trauma the community has faced. Is the best way to serve the community to challenge it?
Any thoughts from you would be helpful…