For several years the Cambodian Oral History Project has sought to connect with Cambodian American communities in the United States, including Long Beach and Oakland California, Tacoma Washington, and West Valley Utah. Recently, we made a long-planned visit to the U.S.’s second largest Cambodian heritage community in Lowell (Massachusetts), where we interviewed eight individuals. We met with the Khmer group leadership of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as well as with leaders of the local Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell. We also visited Lowell’s Cambodian quarter, including a recently dedicated memorial to the Khmer Rouge genocide.
Each of our team members expressed their appreciation for the community’s warm welcome. Here are just a few thoughts from each of the team members that were able to visit:
“We were impressed with Lowell’s long tradition of welcoming immigrants, of which Cambodians are a recent contingent. We hope we can be a part of documenting the inspiring stories of this community.” – Dr. Dana Bourgerie, Project Director
“I was so touched by how warmly we were accepted! We were welcomed with open arms in their community and received fantastic support. The Cambodian-Americans and other groups in Lowell have made that welcoming community what it is today. I was so grateful to feel the spirit of that while our team was there. My favorite part of our time in Lowell was getting to interact with the Cambodian-American community members during interviews. The individuals we interviewed had AMAZING stories. I was blown away by the challenges they faced in their lives, but also incredibly inspired by the stories of courage and perseverance they shared.” – Debra Williams, Heritage Community Coordinator and Interviewer
“I felt so privileged to visit the Cambodian-American community in Lowell, and was particularly touched by the stories they were willing to share so openly to us as we conducted interviews and got to know each of them personally. The community was so kind to welcome us and assist us in our project. Thank you to all who helped us in our endeavor preserve the family stories of Cambodians everywhere!” – Thomas Barrett, Translation Coordinator and Interviewer