Cambodian elders find health through culture

In this story we go to the Asian-Pacific Self-Development and Residential Association (APSARA) in Stockton where Cambodian elders come together to help each other navigate their new community.

Sothea Ung
Asian-Pacific Self-Development and Residential Association (APSARA) Program Manager

In Cambodia we have a very old and rich tradition. We always live close to each other. We are so bonded to each other like a whole, big family. Even though we’re not related by blood. Let’s say we live close to each other, we are neighbors. And you have a kid, and I have a kid. You can treat my kid as your kid. You can tell them what they should do, what they should not. I can allow my kid to sleep at your home, you can allow your kid to sleep at my home. I treat them, I cook for them, I dress for them. All those things. And then, when we are away from home, let’s say we stay home as parents, but our kids go to school together. So they are brother, they are sister right there.

Established in 1989 by Cambodian refugees, The Asian Pacific Self-Development and Residential Association (APSARA) provides services to bridge language and cultural barriers in America.

Today they serve 120 seniors within the community, and approximately 500 seniors the greater Stockton area.

Sovann Koy
8-year Resident
I came here because they have Section 8 housing, which helps me afford my rent

Sothea Ung
We can say that the majority of them they cannot read and write and speak English, definitely. Even Cambodian, they can read and write but only in small amounts. Let’s say 20% or 25% can read and write Cambodian. But they can speak, of course

Sovann Koy
We have someone to translate for us—whether it’s going to the welfare or Social Security Office. We don’t have to depend on our kids being here for us daily.

Sothea Ung
The family here, the kid they raised and born here, they don’t live here anymore. They moved out to another state. They moved to another town. So translation is helping them to maintain their daily lives. It starts from their medication. We need to write out in Cambodian in their medication bottle. Luckily we have a pharmacy here that the owner speaks Cambodian and writes Cambodian, so they can print the tape for them. But in case they meet a Filipino doctor, Latino doctor—someone needs to help them. And go with them to the appointment, go with them when they have emergencies, and also translate all the paperwork from the doctor.

Kimly Lay
Meditation Leader
I’m one of the founding board members of the association, from 1989. We formed this to be like a village. Like our own country. That’s why I love it. I never want to leave.

Sothea Ung
As you know, most that are raised in here they arrived in 1980s and they are refugees. So they’ve been through a lot of depression, a lot of mental illness during that war, or the transition between Third World country to here

(to workshop)
You always want a variety of fruit: ripe ones, fresh ones, crispy, all different types. If you are referring to juices you also want to get 100% juice.

Right now we’re focused on USDA guidelines so we use “My Plate” curriculum today. It still has barriers that we need to focus on. Let’s say My Plate, they have Southeast Asian food, but it’s not really Cambodian food. So the people they need us to explain what’s different. We’re trying to adopt all of those guidelines to fit to our culture. To fit to our people.

Yany Cheas
We’re not related to each other by blood but we care for each other like family. Especially at night. Sometimes I get sick, or we need help so we call each other.

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