Piny Ly, 30’s
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Current Role: Board Member of Cambodian Children's Fund (CCF) - Hong Kong
What racial, ethnic, cultural community or communities do you identify with?
When and how did your family come to the United States? Where were you born?
My family fled the Khmer Rouge regime in 1980 and settled in Australia as refugees. I was born and raised in Sydney, Australia.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Cambodian Australian?
I had always identified as Australian but faced a lot of racism growing up and was embarrassed about my Khmer heritage because I didn't understand it and just wanted to fit in and become successful. Fast forward to my 30s and I now live in Cambodia, am learning Khmer and reconnecting with my cultural roots. Moving to Cambodia this year felt like I was coming home.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
Leaving my life as a corporate lawyer in Hong Kong behind in Feb 2020 and after losing my job, deciding to just move to Cambodia by myself and give back by being a full time volunteer for a year with Cambodian Children's Fund in Phnom Penh.
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
Our strong family values and kinship in Cambodian families and my new appreciation of Khmer food!
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I did not speak a word of Khmer growing up in Sydney as I didn't see any use for it. Now, in March 2020, I decided to learn Khmer after moving to Cambodia. It is the hardest language I have ever learned but it is so satisfying to now be able to speak to my mum and make jokes in Khmer!
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
Be curious about your heritage and embrace it. For many of us, we struggle with trying to identify with our racial/ethnic/cultural origins (which we sometimes don't understand) whilst growing up in a Western culture. Once we accept that we are uniquely of these different worlds, that's when the magic happens.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Spending time with family, friends and loved ones, even more so with COVID making travel so difficult. Living in Cambodia on my own can be hard and lonely, so the love I receive and give for these special people gives me the greatest joy.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
Read about my story of how I decided to leave corporate life to volunteer with CCF and move to Cambodia this year. I was appointed to the Board of CCF HK as its first Cambodian this year.
In July, I became the President of The Cambodian Society, a non-profit organization that seeks to connect the global Cambodian community and those who have an interest in Cambodia through the 3 pillars of arts and culture, business and social impact.
If you would like to share your voice as a person of color, please read the directions and fill out this form here. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome. Thank you!
Who are we?
Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander voices in our communities.
This is a section for AAPI specifically because, coming from our Khmer culture, we often feel invisible in various spaces from school to the media.
We want to show the ways in which we are the same and different, and that all of our backgrounds and experiences are valuable to learn and celebrate. Let's uplift each other!
Want to share your voice?
To be featured, read the directions and fill out this form. All ages, backgrounds, and generations welcome.
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