Khmer Vulnerability Aid Organization (KVAO), formerly known as RISC Cambodia, assists former refugees, who lived in the United States and who have been repatriated to Cambodia, to adjust to life in contemporary Cambodia. This program offers help with necessary documentation, finding employment and housing, and integrating into Cambodian society. All services are provided at no cost and are essential in aiding returnees adjusting to their new life in Cambodia.
The overthrow of the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime occurred in 1979. During this time, the U.S. accepted 150,000 Cambodian refugees into Boston, Long Beach and Seattle areas. Most refugees suffered from PTSD from enduring starvation, witnessing murder, and family division. Despite the extreme trauma, these individuals endured despite receiving limited support services. Many of the children who came to the U.S. were born in refugee camps. Growing up in the inner city, learning a new language and lacking community, led many of the young individuals unfortunately to get involved in the justice system. Their actions were not significantly different from their peers, but because they lacked U.S. citizenship, their actions had other consequences.
In 2002, Cambodia signed an agreement with the U.S. to accept deportations. Despite having already served their sentences in the U.S. prison system, thousands of Cambodian Americans have already been deported or are currently awaiting deportation. Most of these Cambodians came to the U.S. very young, don't speak the language and are unfamiliar with the culture and the society of contemporary Cambodia. Having had to endure the genocide and family severance, many individuals are no faced with the issue of deportation to a "home" they know nothing about and must withstand the struggles of cultural assimilation yet again.
In 2013, I wanted to support RISC Cambodia, now called KVAO. One of the ways I helped give back to this community is by coordinating a fundraising event at the U-District in Seattle, WA with several colleagues and professors from the University of Washington. Everyone came together to help make this event a success, and we raised over $6k. We received support from local artists and small businesses and held a silent auction. We invited Many Uch, a Cambodian refugee who had been fighting his order of deportation for nearly 24 years, and several other Cambodian Americans awaiting deportation to share their stories. As a 2nd generation Khmer American, I believe it is our responsibility to help these individuals. With the increase of Cambodian deportees each year, KVAO relies on financial support from the community since it is a non-governmental organization (NGO).
The aid goes to support Cambodian returnees through the following services:
Initial Orientation: KVAO meets each client on arrival at the General Department of Identification (GDID). During the initial meeting, or as soon thereafter as practicable, KVAO personnel will complete an intake form based on a personal, confidential interview with each client.
Documentation Assistance: KVAO assists each client to acquire necessary documents for personal identification or employment such as; birth and marriage certificates, national identification card, residence & family book and other registration papers.
Employment Assistance: Clients are provided with informal counselling and orientation related to employment, creation and updating of resumes, skills and education grants based on available resources.
Temporary Housing Assistance: Clients who are sponsored by KVAO program and those who are going through critical circumstances in his/her transition will be provided with temporary housing and the necessities.
Basic Medical Support: KVAO has a humanitarian commitment to provide emergency medical assistance in cases of illness or injury or maintenance treatment for chronic conditions for clients who have been in country for 3 years period and those determined to have physical and mental health disability.
Legal Monitoring: KVAO assists clients in monitoring their legal proceedings and help them fully understand their proceedings. KVAO also conducts monthly prison visits in order to verify the well-being of the clients who are incarcerated.
Referral Assistance: KVAO makes appropriate referrals for counseling, employment, medical treatment, drug detoxification, etc.
Follow-Up Support: To verify the well-being and resettlement situation of clients, KVAO conducts regular follow-up with clients through calls, texts and Facebook chat.
Field Visit: To justify services to the whole target population, KVAO conducts Field Visit to mainly the western parts of the country 6 times per year.
Defusing and Mediating Conflict: To build peace in the community, KVAO assists clients with defusing and mediating conflict within the community as it arises.
Thank you for caring,