Refugee Narratives: Ten Stories of Cambodian Refugees


In the spring of 2019, Saint Mary’s College received a "Humanities Research for the Public Good" grant from the Council of Independent Colleges to support the project: “Refuge(es): Telling the Story of Global Displacement Through the Archives of the Sisters of the Holy Cross.” Without their generous grant, this project could not have taken place, and we are grateful for their support of our initiative and for their broad support, in general, of undergraduate research.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, three faculty members (Dr. Laura Williamson Ambrose, PI; Dr. Jessalynn Bird, Co-PI; and Dr. Sarah Noonan, Co-PI) and two student researchers (Mary Coleman and Kaitlin Emmett) collaborated to digitize and showcase material from the Archives and Records of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross that focuses on the sisters’ close work with refugees and displaced persons during the American Civil War (1861-65) and the refugee crises in Cambodia (1979-80), Lebanon (1982-83), and El Salvador (1983-86). Throughout our work on this project, we have sought to encourage community discussion on appropriate and viable responses to the ongoing mass displacement of populations worldwide and to model meaningful, research-based engagement between the Congregation and the College. As we engaged in this work, our project team benefited substantially from the kind assistance of the staff in the Archives and Records office, especially Sr. Catherine Osimo, Sr. Timothea Kingston, and Cindy Hamill, and we could not have completed this initiative without their support.

Students in four grant-affiliated courses also contributed to this initiative, bringing the total project team to over 30 individuals.  Two of these courses contributed to the creation of this edition.  A course on the History of the Book, in the fall of 2019, began our work, as they sorted through archival materials in the Archives and Records of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Cross and identified and digitized the items that they thought would be most valuable to include in a future digital exhibit that showcased the work of the sisters during these conflicts.  The students in this course (Mary Coleman, Ashanti Leach, Anna Noone, Junghoo Park, and Mia Trombly) laid the foundation of this edition, as they first drew attention to the journal edited here in the course of their research.

In the spring of 2020, the students of ENLT 290: Digital Humanities Project Lab (Refugee Narratives) crafted this digital edition of this journal (item Thailand_J1-7_3_1) as their core project of the semester.  It has been an enormous pleasure watching this edition take shape due to their hard work, innovation, and creative vision. Their contributions to this site have been substantial, and I encourage you to read their project responses to learn more about their reactions to engaging in this editorial work.

And finally, we must thank the three artists who graciously contributed images of their work for inclusion on this site.  Although these artworks were not inspired by this journal in particular, all three of these artists have crafted work in recent years that explores the refugee and migrant experience.  We are grateful to Martin Lam Nguyen, C.S.C. and Professors Julie Tourtillotte and Krista Hoefle for contributing their powerful work to this initiative.

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