In partnership with Lowell Public Schools, Middlesex Community College was awarded its fourth Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad grant to send 10 educators from Middlesex and LPS to Cambodia in the summer of 2023.
According to the grant’s director, Lara Kradinova, and Program Manager Kerri Gamache – both MCC English faculty – “the heart of this project is to amplify Cambodian American voices, histories and cultures within classes at MCC and LPS to promote enhanced cultural awareness, inspire enduring mutual understanding and connections, and to promote empathy and shared healing in the community amid the ongoing pandemic. Our hope is to center Cambodian American histories, stories, voices and scholarship in future classes at MCC and LPS.”
The “Healing Connections: Art, Education and Well-being” grant brings together the social science, health and humanities disciplines. The trip will explore how access to equitable education and culturally-responsive health services for Cambodian/Khmer communities – paired with exposure to traditional cultural arts – can create a deeper sense of belonging for students, and create the necessary conditions for success within the Greater Lowell community.
“LPS is excited to take part in this prestigious endeavor with MCC, making this our third Fulbright-Hays GPA together,” said Phala Chea, coordinator of the LPS English Language Education Program and curriculum specialist for the 2016 and 2023 Fulbright grants. “The GPA will allow educators the time and the resources to commit to research, learn, share, collaborate and be able to bring back new perspectives, ideas and lessons into their classrooms. One of the essential goals is to provide educators with professional and personal enrichment that will impact and advance teaching and learning and student and family engagement.”
The group plans to visit educational and health nonprofits in Cambodia with a focus on how access to education, health, arts and culture within different communities of Cambodia impacts young people and communities. The group will meet with the U.S. ambassador, the minister of education, and visit secondary education schools, including the Royal University of Fine Arts and the American University in Phnom Penh.
“We will meet traditional dance performers, contemporary artists, talk to nonprofits that provide educational access to women and rural communities,” Kradinova said. “We will also go to a conservational nonprofit, an elephant sanctuary whose employees are Indigenous people living in the nearby village who also support the local school.”
Community grant partners include UMass Lowell, the Center for Hope and Healing, the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association, METTA Health Clinic and Refuge Arts. MCC ceramics professor and National Heritage Fellow Yary Livan will also travel with the group.
Leading up to the trip, MCC will put together an Interdisciplinary Weekend dedicated to Cambodian arts and culture this spring. Events include a visit to a local temple, ceramics and dance workshops, a traditional music concert and Cambodian food.
Both Kradinova and Gamache were participants in MCC’s Fulbright-Hays grant to Cambodia in 2016.
“The Fulbright enriched our classes and personal lives tremendously,” Kradinova said. “It was a life-changing experience. We were exposed to so many new ways of thinking and doing, and we’re still practicing it in our classes. It was amazing seeing a new culture and experiencing it for the whole month. We’re hoping to expand on this experience this time around.”