Friday, December 2, 2011

Interview with Dr. Kim Khauv


While I was reading the interview I wrote specifically for Dr. Khauv, I couldn't help feeling moved, and teary-eyed. I hear stories like these all the time, but never does it seem to get old... I am a nurse, and one of the reasons why I work with home health (one on one) instead of hospitals, is the loss of emotion one has for a patient. I noticed so many old nurses, treat each patient the same with or without the same diagnosis's. I said to myself, I would never get "used" to nursing. This is how I am, and this is how I feel about every individual experiences of others going through the Khmer rouge era. I'll never get used to it. My focus of the interviews are solely experiences of the impact of the Khmer Rouge's after math on first generation Cambodian Americans and Cambodians. Please read and enjoy, I hope you are enlightened by Dr. Khauv's story!

I always like to ask people to give a brief description of themselves, basic, like your age, location, family, career etc.

Thank you iKandy for the opportunity. I am 37 years old, married, trained in chiropractic and public health working as an assistant professor at Life Chiropractic College West, Hayward, California.

So you were born in Cambodia, what province? Do you remember what it was like living there before the genocide?

I was born in Phnom Penh, approximately 2 years before the Khmer Rouge came into power. I was too young to remember how it was before the genocide but have heard many stories from my parents and family. My grandfather and family ran a successful import/export business in Phnom Penh before it was destroyed by the Khmer Rouge.

Did you have a big family, siblings?

We had a pretty big family from both my parents' families but most of my father's family members perished during the genocide. My mother's side of the family (my younger brother, grandparents, parents, aunts and uncle totaling 10 of us) miraculously survived the genocide and made it to the Thailand refugee camps in 1980. Our family split up in the refugee camps, with my parents, brother and myself being sponsored to California while the rest of the family was sponsored to Paris, France three months later. After my younger sister was born in CA, we were only a 5 member family until my brother married a few years ago (now with a son) and I married in 2010.

Can you tell us your story of how you and your family escaped the Khmer Rouge. Start from the beginning if you can, what were your family doing etc.

Our family escaped the Khmer Rouge purely by luck. My parents, aunts and uncles were recruited to work in the labor camps and we were starved to near death during the Khmer Rouge regime. I understand my family had to act uneducated to survive as the KR would kill anyone with an education or thought of their own.

Did anyone survive that still lives in Cambodia today?

Yes, my father's last surviving siblings still live in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

When you arrived in America, do you remember what it was like or what your first thought was?

I remember being scared at school, not knowing a word of English starting in second grade. I had to take ESL until the 6th grade. My younger brother and I would find ourselves during recess and cried holding on to each other only to be pried apart by our teachers.

Growing up in America, what challenges did you face?

It was a hard time with my parents both working menial jobs to keep a roof over our heads. I remember jumping into dumpsters after school to recycle soda or beer cans while my classmates would play games. We were grateful for the food stamps and had medi-cal for health care.

Some families that were affected by the Khmer Rouge, have post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Was your family affected in this way? If so, how did you and your family cope?

My parents may have been affected but they would never share it. They just worked hard and didn't complain about any health issues publicly.

Your first trip back to Cambodia, there must have been thousands of thoughts running through your mind, but what was the first thought you had, when you first stepped foot into our mother land?

My father and I went back to Cambodia for the first time in 2000 as a graduation present for me. The blatant poverty of people living in shanties was the most shocking to me. My father's family were living in a shanty and it made me realize how lucky we were in the US. This was a life changing experience that solidified my dreams of returning to Cambodia to help. That was the time I co-founded my non-profit, Well-Balanced World, with a fellow chiropractic classmate.

You are now a chiropractor, what made you choose this career?

Chiropractic care changed my life as it helped my sinusitis problem. It is a non-drug method of healthcare that allows the body to heal itself by normalizing our nervous system.

It is so wonderful to hear, that you give back to the Cambodian community now that you are an adult. Some people have not gone down that path, but what made you decide that you should create an NGO?

Growing in the US I always knew that I was very lucky to make it out of Cambodia and surviving the Khmer Rouge genocide. There was a calling to help the people of Cambodia that was left behind. I just didn't know how I could help until I discovered the gift of chiropractic care.

Can you explain more to us about your NGO and how one can go about helping/volunteering?

Our NGO, Well-Balanced World (WBW), aims to develop well-balanced individuals through healthcare, education and nutrition. Since there are many NGO's that already provide medical care in Cambodia, WBW aims to bring other healthcare providers such as Nurses, Dentists, Optometrists and Chiropractors to Cambodia. We are invited by an official from the Cambodian Parliament each year, he is from the Kampong Thom province and we have delivered charitable care to people in Kampong Thmor. We also help people in an orphanage outside of Siem Reap. We are always inviting other healthcare providers to join us in our annual mission trips. Others that want to help with English lessons are also welcome to join. If they can not come with us, others can simply donate to WBW to help with donations to orphanages and expenses.

What is a quote, that best describes your view on life?

Be the change you wish to see in the world.

I ask all my interviewees this question, the most important question:
How did the Khmer Rouge affect your upbringing and how it affected who you are today?

The Khmer Rouge experience during my early childhood has made me appreciate everything I have earned and to not take any opportunity for granted.

Lastly, do you have any words of wisdom to the first generation Cambodian Americans/Cambodians across the globe?

Cambodia Americans and Cambodians should be proud of our rich heritage and continue to propel our incredible culture into the future. Although we should not forget the Khmer Rouge in order to not repeat the ordeal, we should not allow our past to paralyze us from attaining our bright future.


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