Documenting the Khmer Youth Experience

Khmer Girls for Action works primarily with young girls of Southeast Asian descent in the Long Beach area in Southern California. Most are from low income, immigrant and/or refugee families and face such issues such as poverty, racism, and violence. Though Long Beach is home to the largest Cambodian population in the United States, there is a dearth of data and information that reflect the experience of the community. For this reason, KGA decided to launch a research project that would assess the conditions and needs among Khmer youth in their community. KGA hopes that the findings will inform the myriad services serving youth in Long Beach so they can better meet the needs of this very vulnerable, often marginalized population.

KGA wanted the project to be participatory and member-led, so that their community called the shots on what to ask, how, and how the findings will be used. For this reason, KGA approached the DataCenter to conduct a series of trainings to train staff on the research process and implementation so that they could then train their members to be able to conduct the research.

Therefore, DataCenter designed workshops and accompanying curricula first and foremost to build the capacity of youth to conduct their own research projects. The first workshop demystified research, explained how to use research strategically and broke down the research steps, methodologies, and resources needed. It was followed by a day long training that included research project planning, learning the basics of analyzing focus group transcripts and creating a survey. The trainings were then converted into a curriculum that KGA staff used to facilitate a series of workshops this past summer. The workshops culminated into a youth designed survey through thoughtful discussions about what questions and topics to cover that will powerfully illuminate the realities of Khmer youth in the community. Youth members will conduct the survey this winter with 300 Khmer youth.

Program Coordinator Joy Yanga felt sufficiently equipped and ready to facilitate the research project as a result of working with DataCenter. “[DataCenter] helped simplify and translate what the process could look like to our youth leaders … One of the most useful things they’ve moved us through is a working timeline and breakdown of tasks for our project, otherwise it would have been really hard to get through it because it’s our organization’s first time going though this kind of research and survey process. They are great listeners and have a fun way of presenting and facilitating.”

In January 2010, DataCenter will conduct the next workshop, which will include analyzing the survey results, selecting the top key findings they wish to share with the world, then packaging it to disseminate them most effectively. Program coordinator Ashley Uyeda concluded about the collaboration: “DataCenter has been extremely helpful in supporting us and our capacity to take on our own Community-Based Research … All the information, training, and materials they’ve shared have really helped me as staff better understand research and how we can do it from the grassroots level…they were very flexible to our organization’s needs and worked with us to create relevant training materials we could use in working with our young women to develop their own research project.”