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Oral History Project Documents Cambodian Refugee Experience

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(Stockton, CA)
Tuesday, January 22, 2013

In Stockton, refugees are recounting stories of life in the killing fields of Cambodia, survival in the jungles and refugee camps, and as they work of making new lives in America.

Stockton is home to the second largest Cambodian community in California, and the fifth largest in the nation.

Now an oral history project funded by grants from the Stockton Arts Commission and Cal Humanities is being compiled.

About 60 former refugees will tell their stories of life in the killing fields of Cambodia and life in America.

Project Director Elizabeth Roberts says it's been difficult for many to revisit the past.

ROBERTS: "Their children grew up in the shadow of this ghost of genocide not knowing and now they're finally ready to open up and they want to pass this along."

Sokheap Heng came to this country when she was about 10.

Here she shared a two-bedroom apartment with 12 family members, but even that was better than the refugee camp she left behind.

HENG: "I particularly didn't have to go to the landfill to the trashcan to look for utensils or go to the swamp to look for reptiles or any of those good stuff for dinner, lunch, or breakfast."

The oral history will be stored in an archive at University of the Pacific when it's completed.

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