A Deeper Understanding

Samuel Osborne
COHP Project Assistant

When serving as an LDS missionary in Cambodian, a young boy approached my companion and me during a church meeting, asking us to teach the gospel to his mother. I had no idea of the relationship that was about to form. This boy had recently been baptized a member of the LDS church and felt the excitement and happiness that the gospel brings to those who abide by its teachings. He wanted to share his joy with his family, especially his mother who had played such a supportive role in his life.

His mom was an outgoing and bubbly lady. She was always happy to have visitors in her home, especially the missionaries. Being raised a practicing Buddhist, she was hesitant at first to accept what my companion and I were teaching but soon she became interested and–––like her son–––was baptized. Getting to know her was a tremendous blessing for me. For months, we would meet at her house and chat and exchange stories. To this day I still call her mother and she calls me her son. But even after all those meetings there were some things about her past that I didn’t know because they never came up in our conversations. It wasn’t until I joined the Cambodian Oral History Project that I was able to hear stories about her childhood that gave me and even deeper understanding of this great friend of mine.

I learned about her experiences in the Pol Pot regime with her family and how lucky she is to be alive right now. I learned about her inclination towards Christianity as a young girl but also how her parents wouldn’t allow her to associate with Christians. I learned about her wedding, which occurred at the same time as 20 other couples as they all lined up and grasped the hand of a person they had only met seconds before. Knowing this information changed my view dramatically of a woman I deeply cared about.

The history recorded by this project will surely give the world a better broad understanding of Cambodia. But for me, what I am most grateful for about this project is the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of the lives of the people I loved so much while serving them for two years.

June 2017 Project Updates

In the two and a half years since the formal launch of the project in January 2015, we have seen amazing progress. Bellow are some of the progress by the numbers:

Benchmarks and accomplishments 

* 512 audio interviews in Cambodia
* 18 video interviews in Cambodia
* 2 US refugee video interviews
* 5 student interns (4 BYU Cambodia RMs and 1 other RM)
* Approximately 100 local Cambodian LDS peer leaders
* A local Cambodian LDS church member assistant
* 30-40 RM volunteers (BYU and outside)
* Creation of Youtube channel
* Creation and development of project website (http://cambodianoralhistories.byu.edu)
* Outreach to  and involvement with BYU faculty and students interested in personal histories (e.g., folklore, family history, and anthropology,), including use in writing classes.
* Coordination with Cambodia Family History missionaries

Current Project Foci

* Continue with interview collection (2017 interview goal of hitting the 900 mark)
* Transcriptions
* Translations
* Increase number of video interviews
* Tagging for topics and search functions
* Improvement of website
* Adding a second intern in Northern Cambodia
* More cooperation with US refugee/immigrant communities (SLC and Long Beach, CA)

Thanks to the many project supporters and volunteers!

Dana S. Bourgerie
Project Director
June 23, 2017