This personal submission is a part of the “No Longer Invisible: In Their Own Words” project, a story series established to celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month at the UW.
Name: Phavy Chey
Major: UW Alumni, B.S., Public Health
Identity: Cambodian American
Associate Site Manager, Jumpstart, Undergraduate Academic Affairs
“Given my unique family history, life experiences and resilience, I want to share my story with others, create positive change in the world and ultimately improve services for children and families.”
“My mother was forced to leave her homeland following the Khmer Rouge, a genocide led by communists who killed over two thirds of Cambodia’s population. She lost her entire family, including her husband, who was killed when he was forced to enlist in the war and her children who died soon after from starvation and malnutrition. She escaped into the jungles and sought refuge in the Thailand refugee camps where she eventually met my father and established our family. After many years living in the refuge camps throughout Thailand and the Philippines, we finally made our way to America through sponsorship. Hopeful for a new beginning, we envisioned a life free of struggle, but soon discovered the many challenges of being an impoverished, refugee family in America.
Displaced in a foreign land among strangers, stressors continued to pile onto my family. Shortly after our arrival in Seattle as refugees, my father developed a gambling addiction and became an abusive alcoholic towards my mother and siblings. During this time, my mother was also diagnosed with type II diabetes. My mother’s condition continues to limit her ability to work and perform simple daily tasks to this day.
My family’s hardships persisted into my high school years as we relied on government assistance, such as low-income housing, social security checks, and food stamps, to make ends meet.
Being the first individual in my family to complete a degree from a university, I received a Bachelor’s of Science in Public Health at the University of Washington. I am determined to help disadvantaged families thrive in terms of their health and well-being with my compassion and patience.”