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EDUCATION AND CULTURE

My Reflections from UNPFII 2010

By Chantria Tram

  Chantria Tram, Dr. Cooper, Somalin Thach Chantria Tram, Dr. Cooper, Somalin Thach On April 28th 2010, I was given the opportunity to use my voice and speak at the UNPFII as a delegate with the Khmer-Krom Federation Youth Committee (KKFYC). If I were to think about what I would closest call the catalyst to this journey, what brought me to this space and place, I would say it could be traced back to my own self-exploration through a one-woman show I wrote, Someone Between. It is a semi-autobiographical piece about my experiences growing up bicultural. I have always felt caught in between two cultures, two worlds, wedged between my traditional upbringing and this new world of other potentials.

By Chantria Tram

 

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Chantria Tram, Dr. Cooper, Somalin Thach

 

On April 28th 2010, I was given the opportunity to use my voice and speak at the UNPFII as a delegate with the Khmer-Krom Federation Youth Committee (KKFYC). If I were to think about what I would closest call the catalyst to this journey, what brought me to this space and place, I would say it could be traced back to my own self-exploration through a one-woman show I wrote, Someone Between. It is a semi-autobiographical piece about my experiences growing up bicultural. I have always felt caught in between two cultures, two worlds, wedged between my traditional upbringing and this new world of other potentials.

Although I am extremely proud and grateful for this project, I have always felt there was something missing. The opportunity to travel to South Vietnam and see the great Mekong River myself came up when my father offered a plan ticket over. This would be the first time my father has gone back to see his family for over 26 years. After much uncertainty, I made the choice to go.

The images of my experiences in Kampuchea-Krom will forever be imprinted in my memories. I saw thing I wanted to change but became overwhelmed by the immense pressure and responsibility that came with that. When the opportunity came to attend the UNPFII this spring, I couldn’t pass it up. I have hesitated for the past couple of years, fearing I could not live up to its expectations. My background is in theatre, the arts. I came in with the simple knowledge that I was going to help and that I would inevitably learn along the way. I promised myself to keep an open mind and heart and to try to learn as much as I can. I believe the more you are aware, the more you are equipped for life.

When I participated in the KKFYC, I felt I found what I was missing; other Khmer-Krom youths around the world that also lived in between two worlds, yet we were all connected by that very same “Khmer-ness”. As I spoke, I felt the immense support of my community, not only in the room standing behind me but those waiting to get the news at home all around the world but most importantly, the millions who are still living in our homeland; those depending on us to speak for them. As my old high school’s cheesy banner says “Knowledge is Power”. I have come to truly understand this.

We are all so fortunate and privileged to live this life, where access to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People (UNDRIP) is not blocked, celebration of our own cultures is encouraged, where our voices have a venue to be heard. We have our voices and we can freely use them. I realized after my trip back to our homeland that the right for education, the right to speak, freedom of thought and expression, are all fundamental rights that most of us, including myself, take for granted. We have the space to voice our concerns without interruption from oppressive entities.  Let us use them well.

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The beautiful part about this process was meeting other youths who I truly know are going to be life-long friends. Not only the youths from the KKFYC but those all around the world, specifically those in the Indigenous Youth Caucus; a network of like-minded, creative and intelligent people working towards the same goals of cultivating peace, understanding and dialogue. They also want to preserve, celebrate and share their unique cultures. Amongst the uncertainties of tomorrow and the sometimes over-bearing, overwhelming sense of obligations that engulfs me, I still believe that if we stand together, all of our voices around the world-strong, courageous, patient, honest and informed-positive change are absolutely possible. As our Elders have repeated, they will not be with us forever. They have built the foundation. It is up to us to carry on the legacy.

KKFYC BROCHURE 2014

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