YMCA of Long Beach Cambodia Project
2011-12-27 · By Editor
Six of The YMCA of Greater Long Beach Community Development YMCA Cambodian American Staff have been working on a service learning cultural exchange experience in Cambodia partnering with the Cambodia YMCA. The team of six young Cambodian Americans along with the Vice President of Community Development, the Senior Art Director of Change Agent Productions and the Community Development YMCA Board Chair all traveled to Cambodia to help the Cambodia YMCA strengthen its programming, strategize its PR and learn from its participants and members.
This international project’s goals were to help the six Cambodian American YMCA Staff who have never visited their country of origin to learn from their home country’s cultural heritage and also give back to the young people involved with the YMCA there. The YMCA of Greater Long Beach staff hope to make many more journeys to the Cambodia YMCA for other young Cambodian Americans to recapture their heritage and give back to their country through service with the YMCA.
The YMCA of Greater Long Beach provided a day camp for 100 street kids from the Cambodia YMCA Street Children’s School. These children are living on the streets and in the poorest slums of Phnom Penh, the capital. They come to the YMCA program because they are not attending state school and because they are guaranteed one meal a day there.
“The love that the children showed us was inspirational. Their lives and day to day reality were extremely sad. We also donated food, school and sports supplies to the project.”
Another much more in depth project involved teaching five days of digital media and leadership skills to 30 young people who are members and staff of the Cambodia YMCA. This project is ongoing and will culminate in the Cambodia YMCA teaching digital media arts continuously and starting a micro-enterprise in Phnom Penh as a revenue generating social enterprise for the YMCA there.
A film maker captured their experiences and insights, reflections of their emotional, physical and cultural awakenings and growth and they hope to have a documentary finished in late January for submittal to film festivals and Cambodian community showings throughout the US.
This project is unique in that it was developed by Cambodian Americans and has many similarities to a Jewish Travel Project where children and Grand Children of the Jewish Holocaust go back to Israel and learn about their cultural heritage and the genocide. Cambodian Americans feel a need to reconnect to Cambodia, learn about their history, especially the genocide of the Khmer Rouge years where nearly 2,000,000 people were tortured and starved to death. They also need opportunities to give back to Cambodia’s youth and help the country heal thus healing their own generational wounds from that dark time.