Immigrant Success: Laura Som is working to save lives and memories in Cambodia Town

This profile on Cambodia Town community leader Laura Som, who is the executive director of The MAYE Center, is part of a series exploring the successes of immigrants in Long Beach. Immigrant Success is a collaborative podcast project between Long Beach Post and Long Beach Post reporter Stephanie Rivera is the podcast host and Antonio Ruiz is the producer.

Laura Som is the executive director of The MAYE Center, a holistic healing center focusing on Khmer Rouge refugees in Cambodia Town, and a community leader focusing on empowering residents through civic engagement and activism.

Som was inspired to create the healing center following her own journey in self-healing due to the trauma she faced as a child refugee under the Khmer Rouge.

Following an unstable childhood that included living in an orphanage and refugee camps, Som and her mother moved to Long Beach when she was 10 years old.

My First Job: MAYE Center Executive Director Laura Som

While attending school she worked early on, including in a garment shop alongside her mother and then in her teens at a doughnut shop.

While at Poly High School, Som took courses at Long Beach City College in order to raise her grade point average and qualify to apply to a university.

After graduating with a degree in biochemistry from UC Riverside, Som went back to Cambodia to understand her roots. At the end of that self-discovery journey that lasted over a decade, Som developed the elements that would be the foundation of healing at her center: meditation, agriculture (gardening), yoga and education.

Laura Som, executive director of the MAYE Center in Cambodia Town, talks to Post reporter Stephanie Rivera during a recording of the Immigrant Success podcast series in January 2020. Photo by Antonio Ruiz.

Show notes:

00:56 Laura talks about growing up under the Khmer Rouge regime and living in refugee camps.

11:23 Laura discusses life in America and balancing school and work with PTSD.

23:43 Laura talks about her journey to Cambodia to heal and rediscover her roots and creating The MAYE Center.

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Stephanie Rivera is the community engagement editor for the Long Beach Post. After graduating from CSULB with a degree in journalism, Stephanie worked for Patch Latino and City News Service before coming to the Long Beach Post in 2015.