During the fall of 2014, while my husband, Ken Hollenzer, and I served in Cambodia as Family History missionaries, a middle aged Cambodian church member of a local LDS branch, walked into the Family History office. He didn’t speak English, but through the interpreter he brought with him, we learned that he had felt a compelling urge over the previous days to submit his family names to the temple. He told us that he was the sole survivor of his family after the Khmer Rouge. I sensed the deep pain he carried at the loss of his family so many years before and gently asked him how many brothers and sisters he had.
Once he understood my question, he closed his eyes as tears slowly dropped onto his cheeks. He raised his hands and began to count his fingers: one, two, three, four…. I saw the hurt in his face as he pictured their faces, one by one, in his mind; dear faces he had not –––due to the grief of such an incredible loss––– been able to allow himself to picture for decades.
Slowly, he was able to communicate to me that he had had four brothers and four sisters ––– and that he, himself, was the youngest child. All his siblings, as well as his mother and his father, had perished during the genocide years of Pol Pot. He was the only surviving member of his family.
And now, more than 30 years later, after finding the gospel of Jesus Christ, and learning of the eternal nature of the family, he had come to begin the process of sealing his precious family together forever!
*Salli Hollenzer and her husband Ken served as family history missionaries in Cambodia for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from September 2013 to August 2015 Both have continued to play lead roles in the project since returning to their home in Oregon.
January 2018 marked the second anniversary of the Cambodian Oral History Project. We are gratified to report some of the new achievements made possible by all those who have contributed in so many ways–as peer leaders, project assistants, volunteers, transcribers, translators, and as interns. Thanks especially to those willing to share their stories. In addition to the support of the BYU Humanities Center a BYU Mentoring Environment Grant (MEG), we have received a generous financial support from several anonymous donors.
We are set to surpass 1000 interviews early this year, but we have just begun! With the continued support of benefactors in and out of the University, we are poised for an even more productive two more years as we add more resources to the northern provinces, including near Battambang and Siem Reap. We also are reaching out to Cambodian refugee/immigrant communities in the U.S.
Benchmarks and accomplishments (since formal project launch in January 2016)
- 800+ audio interviews in Cambodia
- 25 video interviews in Cambodia
- 3 US refugee video interviews
- 6 student interns (5 BYU Cambodia RMs and 1 other RM)
- Approximately 150 local Cambodian peer leaders
- A local Cambodian project assistant
- ~50 volunteers (BYU and outside)
- Creation of a Youtube channel
- Creation and development of project website
- Launch of Facebook Page
- Outreach to and involvement with BYU faculty and students interested in personal histories (e.g., folklore, family history, anthropology, and History)
- Coordination with LDS Family History missionaries
- Linking with Family Search
Current Project Foci and Aims
- Continue with interview collection (2018 interview goal of reaching at least 1500 interviews)
- Expand work of transcriptions and translations
- Increase number of video interviews
- Tagging for topics and search functions
- Revamp of website to include search function
- Adding a second intern in Northern Cambodia
- Hiring of two more local Cambodia assistants to service the outlying provinces
- More cooperation with US refugee/immigrant communities (SLC, Oakland, and Long Beach, CA)
- Video and photo documentation of the projects
*Dana Scott Bourgerie is the director of Cambodia Oral History Project.