khmer girls

Members of the Khmer Girls in Action congregate with signs.

Khmer Girls in Action (KGA) will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. The Cambodian young women and girls led organization began in Long Beach as a project, and has developed into a strong support system for the community — raising and voicing issues impacting the Southeast Asian community.

“We have historical roots in Long Beach, and we’re really proud of that,” Lian Cheun, KGA executive director said

KGA began in 1997, as HOPE for Girls, a Cambodian young women’s reproductive health and empowerment project. As the organization evolved, KGA developed into a platform to empower young Southeast Asian women to become social justice organizers who can address the needs of their communities.

“We’re really excited because when we were founded 20 years ago, we started as a project, supporting the 1.5 generation of young Cambodian girls; many who came as refugees,” Cheun said.

The 1.5-generation refers to the people who arrived in the United States as children and adolescents, such as Cheun. Cheun, a 1.5-generation refugee from Oakland, currently serves as executive director for KGA, and has been involved with the organization for the past 9 years.

“There wasn’t a large Southeast Asian community in Oakland when I was growing up, and we didn’t have anything like KGA”, Cheun said. “I think for me, I grew up in that environment — I was socially conscious of the different challenges in the Cambodian community.”

KGA receives a significant amount of support from the greater Asian Pacific community, one of the attributes that contributes to the success and sustainability of the organization.

“We receive a lot of love and support from the larger Cambodian community and the larger API community,” Cheun said.

KGA, which started as a small project, is now an established 501(C)(3) non-profit organization, with eight full-time staff members. As a youth-led organization, KGA offers young women an opportunity to make a real impact in the community. KGA takes a comprehensive approach to working with members, with programs that analyze gender, class, race, sexuality and culture. Programs include community organization, leadership development, cultural and media arts exploration, and individual and academic support.

The anniversary event will celebrate, reflect and honor KGA’s past, while imaging a more just future for the Long Beach community, Cheun said. Music, food, entertainment, prizes, and awards are a few things that attendees can look forward to.

Proceeds from tickets will support KGA’s mission to “build a progressive and sustainable Long Beach community that works for gender, racial and economic justice.”

KGA’s 20th Anniversary Gala will take place on June 30, at La Lune Restaurant in Long Beach. For tickets and more information, visit http://kgalb.org/ or http://www.fb.com/kgalb.

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