FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 31, 2011
Navin Moul: (510) 229-2945
Tera Eng Dalla: (510) 301-5736
$10,500 in grants to advance human rights of Cambodian American women and girls.
[31 Dec – San Francisco] The Devata Giving Circle (DGC) is proud to announce its second round of grants totaling $10,500 to four community-based organizations working to support Cambodian American women and girls. Banteay Srei, which received an inaugural grant of $2,500 in 2009, was awarded a renewal grant of $3,000. The Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (CERI), Cambodian Community Development Inc (CCDI), and Applied Social Research Institute of Cambodia (ASRIC) each received $2,500. CERI, CCDI, and Banteay Srei are based in Oakland, CA. ASRIC is based in New York, NY. All four organizations are eligible to receive an additional 50% match from AAPIP (Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy) which has established a giving circle campaign to promote community philanthropy.
The Devata Giving Circle, the first Cambodian American women led circle, was founded in 2010 based on a shared commitment to advance thriving Cambodian American communities across the United States.
Each grantee exemplifies the commitment and vibrant spirit of the Cambodian American community. By providing safe spaces and options for young women at risk of sexual exploitation, giving voice to survivors of the Khmer Rouge Killing Fields who have long been silenced, healing and giving hope to a generation of women lost between the cracks, and supporting a community that continues to struggle in the inner-city poverty and violence, Banteay Srei, ASRIC, CERI, and CCDI are contributing to and helping to build the thriving Cambodian communities that the Devata Giving Circle envisions. It is a community in which women and girls are healthy, engaged, and empowered to lead.
Cambodia has a gruesome history, one that has paralyzed survivors and the community at large. Under the Khmer Rouge regime, an estimated 1.7 million people perished as a result of executions, forced labor, malnutrition, starvation, torture, and disease. Thousands fled to refugee camps and then resettled to receiving countries, like the U.S., in the 1980s. As a result of their experience, many survivors suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and struggle with depression, high poverty rates, low academic performance, domestic violence, and vices such as a gambling and alcoholism. Young Cambodian-Americans are more likely to drop out of high school and/or go to jail than they are to graduate from college. However, despite these overwhelming challenges, there is a strong survival spirit of resilience and vibrancy that runs through Cambodian communities across the U.S.
The Devata Giving Circle was born out of this resilient spirit to not only survive but to build thriving families and communities. Like the devata, a female guardian spirit, women and girls are divine and powerful change agents and are the cornerstones of their community. DGC believes that if you improve the lives of women and girls, and communities will improve. We, therefore, strategically invest in organizations committed to serving women and girls.
For the young women of Banteay Srei, the emergence of DGC is inspiring and affirming. When asked what it was like to find out that Cambodian American women raised money to support them in finding healthy alternatives to street life, they said:
“I feel thankful. It's cool to know that they're like us, because they understand, and their parents went through [similar] struggles."
"I feel thankful and special for them giving us money. I also feel that it's awesome that women can also be supportive and work."
The Devata Giving Circle is a vehicle to empower and engage Cambodian Americans in philanthropy and works to promote collaborative giving in order to support organizations working to advance the human rights of Cambodian women and girls. With support from our friends and allies, we are part of a national movement to build democratic, grassroots philanthropy.
Devata Giving Circle is hosted by the Asian Pacific Fund (APF), a 501(c)(3) organization, and is a member of the AAPIP National Giving Circle Network.
By Navin Moul and Khamly Choup
Today is the first of Cambodian New Year, regularly celebrated for three days starting on April 13th or 14th and coinciding with the end of the harvest season. Here in sunny California, celebrations have been happening since the beginning of the month: April 1 (Nixon Library, Los Angeles), April 2nd (Cambodian New Year Parade, Long Beach; Cesar Chavez Educational Center, Oakland), and April 9 (El Dorado Park, Long Beach). But don’t worry, you still can enjoy celebrations in Stockton, California all this weekend starting Thursday, April 14 through Sunday, April 17. Find out more about these celebrations here.
How is Cambodian New Year celebrated?
Here in the U.S., Cambodians and friends congregate at parks or temples to share traditional Cambodian food such as barbequed chicken and beef skewers, papaya salad, Cambodian chicken curry, various noodle soups, and other favorites. Traditional games such as “Chol Chhoung” where two teams avoid getting hit by a tossed ball for fear of having to dance like a chicken if hit and “Klah Klo,” a gambling game involving a mat and dice are played. Stages are usually set up to showcase traditional music, dancing, and maybe even a fashion show. All celebrations center around spending time with friends and family.
Three Days of Significance
Traditionally in Cambodia, the New Year is celebrated over three days, each day with its own significance. The first day, Maha Songkran, is the ending of the year and the beginning of the new one. People light candles, burn incense, and offer thanks at Buddhist shrines. In addition, people start building a sand “mountain” in which each grain of sand represents gains merits for the builder which will produce more happiness and good health. The mountains continue to grow throughout the New Year celebration. The second day, Virak Wanabat, is a lesser known day in which people practice generosity by giving to the less fortunate in their families and communities, participating in service activities, and appreciating the gifts before them. It is an occasion to reflect on life and assess possible new life directions. On the third day, Tngay Leang Saka, statues of the Buddha are cleansed with perfumed water, a gesture considered a kind deed that will bring good luck, long life, and happiness. The cleansing also symbolizes a hope for enough rainfall for the rice harvest season in the coming year. This is also the day that the sand “mountain” is blessed by monks and disassembled.
The second day, Virak Wanabat, and the Devata Giving Circle
Tied to the value of giving, Virak Wanabat is an opportunity to further change and make change in the lives of others and develop a culture of giving and service. Similar to the values of the Devata Giving Circle, a grassroots vehicle for shared giving committed to helping the Cambodian American community, Virak Wanabat is a chance for individuals and communities to be change agents. As the first Cambodian American giving circle in the United States, the Devata Giving Circle empowers Cambodian American women and girls by supporting important work in the community. Through pooled giving, the Circle is part of a larger community of givers and helps realize change with small monetary investments.
Last year, the Devata Giving Circle made our first grant to Banteay Srei, an Oakland-based organization dedicated to working with young women and girls, ages 14-19, who are at risk or are being sexually exploited. Banteay Srei’s programs promote leadership development, cultural awareness, and self empowerment in order to create a new generation of fierce, independent, and empowered young women. We plan on making two more grants this year. In the spirit of giving and fresh starts, please help us welcome the New Year by giving to the Devata Giving Circle and empower Cambodian American women and girls.
And to end as we began, “Soursdey Chnam Thmei!” from the women of the Devata Giving Circle!
Devata Giving Circle
Devata Giving Circle is made up of committed and empowered Cambodian-American women. This blog features announcements, stories, and our own musings.