YMCA Long Beach’s “A Cambodia Journey”
By Seth Sin | April 10th, 2012
For children of those who survived the Killing Fields, their first trip to Cambodia can be an intense experience, an awakening of the mind that can forever alter their perspective on what the ancestral homeland really means to them. The documentary “A Cambodia Journey” follows six young Cambodian Americans, who all work on the staff of the YMCA of Greater Long Beach, in their quest to reconnect with their culture and heritage. In conjunction with the YMCA of Phnom Penh, the program aims to bridge the the cultural gap that exists between Cambodians and Cambodian Americans as well as to foster community service, education, and team-building.
Staffer Sunny Im had never been to Cambodia before. She was born in a refugee camp in Thailand, a familiar story that many children of Cambodian refugees share. After the group took the kids from the YMCA Street Children Program to a water park, Im was shown walking along the street, barely holding back tears: the street children remind her of her daughter back in Long Beach. “The hard part is saying ‘no,’” she remarked about the young beggars selling trinkets, her eyes welling. “I’m just picturing my own daughter at that age.” She walked by the many children trying to make a living on the streets of Phnom Penh. It can be a heartbreaking experience for first-time travelers to Cambodia. The feeling of hopelessness at the sheer scale of poverty puts one’s own problems back at home in a new light.
Next up was a trip to Kampong Som, a popular beach resort destination for Cambodians and foreigners alike. During the bus ride there was a great moment in which Phyras Men and Trang Truong from the Long Beach group introduced themselves to the Cambodia YMCA staff. The purpose of the trip was to bring together the team of Phnom Penh’s YMCA and the six young Khmer Americans, connecting them to each other through exercises meant to promote communication and problem-solving. After that was a class in digital media, in which the group from Long Beach taught a group of young Cambodians how to create their own movies using Apple computers and software. The students expressed their heartfelt thanks, telling their instructors that it would have been difficult to gain this knowledge without the help of the YMCA.