Kim Sin is a professional in Rochester who is a graduate of RCTC who is living the "American Dream" He came to the US penniless as a refugee around 6 years old. He is a miracle; he escaped the Khmer Rouge with his family as a toddler. This was unheard of! Babies cry and this alerts the soldiers where the group is. Many children did not make it alive and many people escaped without children since they were a liability. However, Kim, and his family, made it! We escaped the brutal Khmer Rouge genocide by traveling through the dense, humid, hot and tangled jungle at night; landmines ready to go off surrounded these areas! We ate what we could find, roots, leaves, and bugs. I have no idea how an infant can do this. In any case, my family made it to the Thai border and to a refugee camp. We then made it to the Philippines where I learned about the US by going to preschool. We then relocated to the US in Rochester, MN and were sponsored by a church organization.
For over 25 years, I have been working with members of the Cambodian community, including elderly and those with physical and chronic health conditions. Through my experiences as a community member and advocate for new Americans, I have been able to observe the importance for many first-generation immigrants to find spaces to grow their own food as a way to maintain their health and regain a sense of self and dignity. In the Cambodian community, as well as other refugee communities, growing your own food is not only a common practice, but for some elders in the community, tending a garden that produces food is a way to give back to one’s family and Cambodian community.