I am a Cambodian - American, the daughter of refugees who fled from a genocide torn country. But during my childhood I can recall myself being provided for very well by my mother and family members. Even though I have a single mother who was raising three children, having our family around helped her immensely. To this day I am still in awe at how she is able to provide for us not only the things that we need but the luxuries that others get to have. Her resilience despite living through war, and poverty inspires me to stay humble even while attending an excellent university.
Tragedy struck my family and I when my twin sister was undergoing surgery on her trachea a few years ago. After just a few days in the hospital, her doctors identified a much more serious issue with her airway and moved her to the Intensive Care Unit at Children's Hospital. It was a terrible time for me, to see someone so close to me go through pain, even at 16 years-old. Nonetheless, her health was stable but my family sacrificed their time, taking turns staying at the hospital with her and I could tell it was wearing on them - all except my mother.
But the bump in the road got worse when we least expected it, in the time when my family was the closest we have ever been, the greatest test of our perseverance was about to show itself. One day, my god-mother called me into my mother's bedroom and I walked in to her with a blank expression staring at the wall. She broke the news that she had gotten laid off from the job that she had had for years. I was shocked, the bravest woman I knew was deteriorating in front of my eyes. It wasn't long before she picked herself up and decided she had to make progress for the sake of her family and soon we lived on food stamps, a limited budget and family support. Never before in my life had I have to endure even this common financial struggle.
But being the empathetic person that I am I was determined to help my mother. It all began with food, how was I going to help her save money? Sure we had family around but we as a family of four had to still maintain by ourselves. So I began to clip coupons and go along with my mother to the supermarket, constantly adding up every nickel and dime so that she could put food on the table. At this time it was hugely important to my mother because being unemployed gave her little power as a mother. Being able to buy groceries was a simple task that made her feel stable once more. While my sister was still in the hospital I tried my best to maintain not just a budget but also the emotional stability of my relatives. Money, was a luxury at this time, but not the first thought that came to my mind. I had to stay positive and be there whenever anyone needed me. Surely, this type of companionship is what everyone needed, the person following behind them to keep track of the things that they did not have the energy to do. It is easy in times of despair to replace happiness with material things, but I tried to fill that void by reminding my mother she did not have to give me a weekly allowance. We had to take this one step at a time.
Today I proudly can say that I attend a great private university and although tuition is high, my mother made this sacrifice for the hope of my future aspirations coming true. One thing that is also constant for us is hard work and humility.