Sovanny Van, 40's
My current role is Materials Management Specialist. I support the manufacturing production team and final delivery team for emergent orders of aircraft parts and supplies. I'm part of the supply chain responsible for finding parts as quickly as possible to ensure that we deliver the finished airplane to our customers on time.
I am also a fashion designer and alterations specialist with a focus on special occasion and bridal wear.
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?
I was born in Kampot, Cambodia. Our family (my parents, younger sister, and I) escaped from Cambodia on April 17, 1975 on one of three Cambodian naval ships.
My father was in the military at the time and we lived in the Ream Province on the military base. The leadership sent out a message to all military personnel to flee the country due to the Khmer Rouge coup. My parents were told it would only be for three days and after that, we would be able to return back to our homes.
After the three day period, one of the ships returned to the country and was shot down by the Khmer Rouge. When the remaining ships got word of what had happened, we realized we were now refugees without a country. It took about 30 days before we got word that the U.S. was willing to accept our ships.
We arrived in the United States shortly thereafter in 1975 at the San Onofre Naval Base near Camp Pendleton where we lived in what was called resettlement camps, waiting for sponsorship. From there, our family moved to Nebraska. In 1977, our family moved to Salem, Oregon where I grew up.
What are the strengths and challenges of being Asian, Asian American, and/or Pacific Islander?
Culturally, there continues to be a double standard and expectations for Asian women in my generation. The expectations are for an Asian woman to be successful in a professional role outside of the home, yet continue to uphold a traditional domestic role in the home. The balancing between the two worlds makes it tough some days to avoid the feeling of imposter syndrome.
As a first generation immigrant, I have learned that many of the things I used to perceive as a challenge of being Asian was actually the driving force to my strengths. Growing up, I was exposed to adults learning to speak English or didn't speak English at all. I mastered the ability to communicate effectively across a diverse group in my personal life which translated very well in my professional life. I became very good with adapting communication styles to different audiences.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I've been blessed to have more than one proud accomplishment in my life. If I'm only picking one, I would have to say it was when I designed my first collection at a fashion show. I had a breakthrough with the creative process and worked on the art of letting go of perfection. Most of us have lots of goals and dreams we'd like to pursue. The challenge is taking action on them and finishing what was started. Presenting this first fashion collection was pivotal for me.
What is one thing you learned or appreciate from your family growing up?
Growing up I saw the struggles my parents had with raising a young family in a foreign country, not speaking the language, and having virtually no community to identify with for the first 5 years after we arrived. From that, I learned the value of not taking anything in life for granted. When I'm faced with challenges and the insecurities surface, I reflect on my past struggles and I'm reminded of what I have overcome.
Do you speak your family's native language? Why or why not?
I do speak my family's native language of Khmer. It is a valuable tool to have in life, being multi-lingual. To know how to communicate with a diverse audience is extremely valuable. It's also important to preserve a culture's language so that it does not become extinct.
What advice do you have for the younger generations in our Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander community?
My advice I have for the younger generation is that it is okay to have more than one professional and personal goal in life. In fact I would emphasize the importance of having multiple passions. They don't always have to relate to each other.
You can have an analytical mind and be a creative. Transferable skills are extremely valuable.
Be financially smart so that you have the ability to work on personal projects that feed the soul. Read books and never stop learning. It's okay to procrastinate, just do it strategically. You'll find that some of your greatest ideas, breakthroughs, and solutions to problems are found where and when you least expect it.
Most of all, love yourself.
What gives you the greatest joy in life?
Teaching my children to pursue both intellectual and creative interest and taking time for myself to work on creating art and design.
Are there any projects you have created that you'd like to share and promote?
Atelier Sovanny is my design label. My Facebook page and Instagram account would be the best spots of where I have showcased my work. Atelier Sovanny Facebook and Instagram.
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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