How Cambodian Americans were left out of pandemic response

Sothea Ung directs programs for a 33-year-old nonprofit organization in Stockton, a suburban enclave 90 miles east of San Francisco, which proved indispensable in getting COVID-19 vaccines to that city’s sizable Cambodian refugee community.

What keeps Ung up at night, he says, is that his agency, APSARA, was excluded when local civic leaders met to plan an emergency vaccine rollout campaign to reach Stockton’s increasingly diverse and underserved populations.

“We’re a small agency that wasn’t invited to the strategic planning sessions at the start,” Ung recalled. The result was a top-down campaign where funds were disbursed to the largest nonprofit agencies and only slowly trickled down to grassroots groups that often have the most direct ties to the communities that need to be reached.

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