By Chom Sou
Our Oregon story started on March 18, 1969, when more than 500,000 tons of United States B-52 bombs were dropped on Cambodia killing thousands of innocent Khmer (Cambodian) people. Because of these bombs, on April 17, 1975, the entire country of Cambodia was forced into concentration camps by the Khmer Rouge. About two million people died from murder, starvation and torture.
After being in a concentration and refugee camp for more than nine years, our family was sponsored by a Lutheran Church and arrived in Oregon on November 9, 1984.
Our parents had seven kids before coming to America—four died in the concentration camp and one couldn’t walk or talk. The trauma of the war and death of our siblings was a major factor in our mother’s PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Having PSTD and a child with special needs made it very challenging to work. We lived on government assistance, and our parents did the best they could to get by. Our incredible mother still had the strength to love and care for all of us.
Although our mother couldn’t work due to her mental illness, she raised us to be contributing members of society. As a result, my siblings and I were first-generation Oregon high school graduates. I was fortunate enough to go on to earn a bachelor’s degree at Portland State University and later a master’s degree. All of us work full-time jobs in Oregon and have been contributing taxpayers for many years.
Like many other Oregonians, we enjoyed going to Multnomah Falls and to the Oregon Zoo. We didn’t have a lot of money and often played freeze tag, hide-and-seek and games that we made up. We also enjoyed playing basketball competitively, and my sister Mary played on the varsity team for Cleveland High School in Portland.
Oregon has always been our home. That is why my sister and I decided to pursue our dream of opening our own business—Sou Family Recipes, LLC. We are extremely proud to be Khmer, and we want to influence the world by giving non-Khmer people the opportunity to taste, smell and feel traditional Khmer cuisines. Our first product is Sou Family Recipe’s Traditional Cambodian Lemongrass Seasoning.
We went from experiencing pain from our mother’s scars to becoming resilient warriors.
We dream of a world that loves and acknowledges our brown skin.
We believe that our love for our culture will be a gift to heal wounds.
We are Oregon’s history.
WE ARE KHMER.
Siblings Chom and Mary Sou grew up in Oregon and own Sou Family Recipes, LLC, featuring traditional Khmer seasoning.
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