Who are We?
Khmer Health Advocates (KHA) was founded with a mission to care for the health needs of survivors of the Mahandorai (the Cambodian holocaust), and their families. The KHA torture treatment program is one of the first programs for the torture victims in the United States. As the only Cambodian health organization in the United States, KHA provides care for people in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts, and advocates for survivors across the nation.
Khmer Health Advocates was founded in Connecticut in 1982 by Theanvy Kuoch, a Cambodian woman survivor, and three American nurses, Mary F Scully, Irene Bjorkland, and Lynn Kirby who worked in refugee camps in Thailand. KHA was founded to address the critical health needs of the thousands of Cambodians who had fled a decade of war, starvation, and torture in their homeland, and had arrived as refugees in the United States. Traumatized and suffering from multiple health problems, the refugees needed special help to cope with life in their new country and new language, and to begin the process of healing. KHA’s Cambodian and American professional health workers stepped in to provide care to individuals and their entire families, in the Khmer language, and in a culturally sensitive manner.
Funding and Support
KHA’s programs and services have received local, national, and international recognition and financial support from foundations, The United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture (UNVFVT), government agencies, and individuals.
A Group at Risk
Like other survivors of war and concentration camps, a large number of Cambodian refugees suffer from serious mental and physical health problems. Post traumatic stress disorder, depression, and obsessive compulsive disorder are common, and hypertension, headache, digestive and respiratory diseases, fatigue, and physical signs of premature aging greatly reduce the quality of life of survivors. Effects of past trauma combined with the huge challenge of adjusting to life in America has led to severe social problems among Cambodians as well substance abuse, domestic violence, formation of youth gangs, suicide, and the breakdown of family communication.
These problems do not lend themselves to quick solutions. They require long-term, in-depth care and counseling. Moreover, the number of patients presenting themselves with symptoms of Post traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) does not decrease with the passage of time, and an individual’s symptoms can increase in severity as he or she grows older. The need for KHA’s services remains strong among Cambodians in Southern New England. KHA’s commitment to the Cambodian-American community remains just as strong. To address these needs, KHA operates one of the first treatment programs for torture victims in the United States and is now developing a model program for the use of telemedicine, which may eventually assure access to care for survivors across the United States.
Making a Difference Since 1982, KHA has provided innovative outreach and therapeutic care to Cambodians living in New England.