A Message of Thanksgiving and Revisiting Long Beach

Over the past few years, the Cambodian Oral History Project has had the special privilege of connecting with Cambodian Americans and new friends in Cambodian heritage communities around the United States. These visits have not only highlighted our progress and success over the last few years but have also given our team ample opportunities to express gratitude for the interactions we have had with such fantastic people in these communities. Our translation coordinator, Thomas Barrett, was recently able to share some of his thoughts regarding our recent trip to Long Beach last October. Here is what he had to say:

The author with Phan Chanthan

“Returning to Long Beach has been a high priority for the Cambodian Oral History Project over the last couple of years, especially since there is so much work yet to be done to preserve the stories of people there. While Long Beach is home to the highest population of Cambodians in the United States, the project had not been able to visit the area since March 2018, making the idea of such a trip an exciting prospect for all of us involved.

When our team made the decision to return to Long Beach this last October, I was absolutely elated. I have a personal connection to the Long Beach area because I had the chance to live among the Cambodian Americans there for about six months while on reassignment as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While returning to Long Beach was a daunting endeavor, I saw over and over how our plans fell into place. We had an initial goal to conduct about 6 interviews, but when the Cambodian community heard that we were returning to Long Beach, they welcomed us with open arms. Needless to say, we were thrilled to find out when our trip was over that we ended up conducting interviews with 18 people.

Outside of our measurable success, the trip also carried a lot of personal meaning to me because when I had lived in Long Beach over three years ago, I was hardly competent in the language. I often found myself mostly unable to understand the stories these wonderful Cambodians wanted to share with me about their lives, what they had endured in Cambodia, and how they came to California. Being able to return with the project not only enabled me to visit and reconnect with the people I had loved and cared so much about but also gave me the privilege of listening to their stories all over again. Except this time, I understood every word they were saying and every story they shared—and they knew it.

The COHP team with local leaders of the Cambodian community in Long Beach, CA.

Our team has reflected over and over again that trips like this always seem to be providential, and being able to visit Long Beach was nothing short of that. Especially with Thanksgiving coming up, I want to express my personal gratitude to all the church leaders, friends, and community members who welcomed us and were thrilled to share just a little piece of their lives with us. It has meant so much to our team and to me, and will be a huge blessing for generations to come!”


In the same spirit of gratitude, the project also would like to express thanks to all those who have assisted in our endeavors to preserve the life histories of Cambodians everywhere. We likewise express special thanks to the BYU Humanities Center, who were the original sponsors of the project and have been a perpetual ally for nearly eight years in assisting the project.

The Humanities Center recently published a fantastic article highlighting the project after our Project Director, Professor Dana Bourgerie was able to present at the Humanities Center Colloquium. You can read it here:

Checking in with the Cambodian Oral History Project