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An unsettled arrival

The distinctive rose-colored scarf was draped gracefully over the young boy's head, protecting him not from cold but from the intense rays of the sun. He was a child, yet his expression was heavy, like that of an adult. A Cambodian born and raised in a refugee camp just over the border in Thailand, he was coming "home" for the first time. It was 1992. The United Nations was repatriating Cambodian refugees to a land that was far from peaceful. Khmer Rouge soldiers still roamed this rural area. The boy and his family had yet to build a dwelling in this dusty land of scrub and a few stray palm trees. There was no ready source of water or food. The family had been given some lumber, a bucket, and a few tools. The nearest town was a few miles away. In the refugee camp they'd left, everything had been provided – shelter, food, clothing, and education. Even a child knew that the road ahead would be rough. The joy of homecoming was tangled in the complexities of life in a new, harsh place. It was a sobering moment I will never forget.


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