Chhaya Chhoum

Executive Director

Key Topics: Inter-generational organizing, Healing and organizing through the lens of the Southeast-Asian experience.

Bio: Chhaya Chhoum was born in Cambodia in 1978 during the fall of the Khmer Rouge Regime. Chhaya and her family sought refuge in refugee camps in Thailand and the Philippines before making their way to the United States. After a refugee resettlement program abandoned her extended family along with thousands of other Cambodians and Vietnamese in urban poverty in the Bronx she began to organize her community against institutionalized oppression. When Chhaya was 16, she became a tutor in a pilot program run by CAAAV, one of the first organizations in America to mobilize Asian immigrant communities against the institutionalized violence of urban poverty, worker exploitation, police brutality, INS detention and deportation. Her summer internships soon turned into a full-time job as she became staff director of CAAAV’s new Youth Leadership Project (YLP). Taking on slumlords, overcrowded classrooms and cutbacks in translation services at public assistance centers and local health clinics, Chhoum harnesses the energy of the young in a community that has lost much of its adult generation. They would also begin to organize the adults as well as other youth to fight for justice.

In 2012, Chhoum co-founded Mekong, a community-based organization in the Bronx empowering the Cambodian and Vietnamese community through arts, culture, community organizing, and advocacy. She is currently the Executive Director of Mekong. She is also a mother of three – ages 13, 9, and 4. She was awarded Ford’s Leadership for a Changing World and awarded the Petra Foundation Award for unsung heroes in 2006. She has also received the 2013 Neighborhood Leadership Award from The New York Women Foundation.

Selected Speaking Experience

  • Brown University.
  • New York Women Foundation Gala.
  • Khmer Student Coalition Conference.
  • Petra Foundation.