Big news! American Refugee Committee is becoming ALIGHT!
It’s more than just a name change. It’s a re-committment to the people we serve and the promise we’ve made to them. Part of that promise starts with Changemakers 365.
Doing the doable is all about removing the barriers to making change – just diving right in and doing something good. It’s about giving first, and believing in the abundance of ideas, creativity, and goodwill in people everywhere.
That’s why, to celebrate the launch of becoming Alight, our teams started by giving – we started by getting out into the communities we call home and making a difference, one idea at a time.
First stop – a celebration of Khmer culture at Minnesota’s own IKARE museum! IKARE is a first of its kind space promotes and preserves the rich legacy of the Khmer people.
40 years ago, American Refugee Committee began its journey in response to the crisis on the Thai-Camodian border, where a terrible genocide of Khmer people was taking place. In fact, Sokunthea Bentley and Kosol Sek, Cambodian-Americans who serve on the executive team at IKARE, lived in Khao I Dang, a refugee camp where ARC worked. Sokunthea remembers the ARC health clinic there. “This organization was the start of my life in the refugee camp,” she said.
Our new friends treated us to an insider’s tour of the museum, where we soaked in the beauty of the Khmer Empire and its legacy today – temples etched with beautiful words, rich art, and lasting cultural traditions.
Amazingly, we saw newspaper cuttings from the late 1970s featuring our very own leaders from the time – Dr. Pat Walker, Dr. Steve Miles, and radio journalist Greg Barron – all originals to ARC who served in the camps and believed in the talents and potential of the people they helped lift up.
The symbolic nature of the museum visit wasn’t lost on anyone – it was poignant to revisit our roots with people who have meant so much to us then and now, and to celebrate a new beginning with them.
Second stop – lunch, of course! We wanted to support the Khmer community with a visit to one of Minneapolis’s best spots for Cambodian food, Kolap Restaurant!
Kolap is a family-owned restaurant, and they’ve recently suffered a loss with the patriarch of the family losing his battle to cancer. Business has been slow ever since, and on the verge of closing – our visit (with a big group of supporters!) was an opportunity to boost business and interest in the restaurant.
We sat down with Kosol, Sokunthea, and more members from the Khmer community and shared a delicious meal – and great conversation. One fellow even drove all the way up from Rochester on his motorcycle to join us, an hour and a half away! The conversation flowed…and people just clicked.
“I really felt at home,” said Adrian from the Alight team. “I don’t go to restaurants very often, but I would love to come back here!”
“This really was a full circle moment with Alight, this community was with us in the beginning, they’re a part of our story,” said Heather, also from the Alight team.
“I’m so excited to be part of your next step as Alight, because we’re a community of light, as well.” said Kosol. “Without ARC intervening in the genocide, we may not be standing here. The people you helped? It’s me.”