Daniel Bromberg's Internship Report
I held very high expectations for the CURA project when I applied for the internship. Even though the Cambodian Working Group (CWG) was my second choice, I was extremely pleased to be accepted into the project and looked forward to working with my new team members. I did not know much about the Cambodian genocide (save an oral presentation by a classmate the previous semester) and knew it was a great way to expand my knowledge and learn more about one of history’s darkest moments. As a undergraduate history student, surely it shouldn’t be hard to believe that I seek to constantly broaden my horizons and understand the histories and cultures of the globe before choosing a more specific subject/area for a graduate degree. While I do admit that the CURA project was at first a good way to pick up some volunteer experience for the resume, I had no idea how it would change my life.
Before meeting the rest of the group, I was put in contact with the group leader, Thi Ry Duong, who acted as a mediator between me and the rest of the group in order to plan our first meeting of 2009. In her e-mails, Ry introduced me as her assistant, and explained to everyone how I would be working alongside her for the winter semester as an intern and was willing to act as a right-hand man for anyone. I was assigned to schedule group meetings, make detailed notes at the meetings, work on the English interview of Kheng Duong and finally to compose the Milestone Report for CURA.
Out first meeting took place at the end of January in the conference room of the Oral History department. When I arrived there were about ten people in attendance, and it looked as though no one had seen each other in a while – there were smiles, laughs and memories shared amongst the CWG members. However, they were all speaking in Khmer and I had no idea what was happening! I sat down beside Ry and got out my notepad, ready to begin my tasks. Ry took control of the meeting and addressed everyone, wishing them a happy new year and welcome back. And then she introduced me. Since most of the members only speak Khmer and French, I had to introduce myself and talk about my background in French (with the help of Davith) so that the members were familiar with me and my story. I told them that I was Jewish and am an undergraduate honours History major – therefore, I hoped that they understood that studying genocide and wishing to write about it should not have been surprising. They were all extremely welcoming and congratulated me on my efforts to join the group.
The meeting continued, and everyone discussed their plans and ideas for the coming term – of course, there were questions (mostly mine) and debates about everything, which is only normal when people are so dedicated to their work. After about two hours, the meeting came to an end and we all said our goodbyes until the next encounter. I stayed behind to discuss some things with Ry, and then left the building with high hopes for a great semester ahead.
The next few weeks passed very slowly. I kept in contact with Ry on a bi-weekly basis, keeping her up-to-date with my activities, schedule, and plans for the upcoming school semester. I was very eager to start working for the CWG, but there wasn’t much to be done yet. The Kheng Duong interview was not finished, so I could not start the chronology, and I was hesitant to do a chronology for a French interview – even though Ry tried to convince me that I would have been more than capable! So in the meantime I familiarized myself with the Basecamp website, visited the Oral History department once in a while, and waited until I could start working.
By the time of the next meeting in February, I had still not done much work, and felt a little ashamed to be going to the meeting empty-handed. However, no one questioned what I had been doing in the past month, but instead reassured me by saying that the work would come with time. Sure enough, they were right! Within the next two weeks, I was busy working on the Milestone report for the CWG and was given the Kheng Duong interview. The chronology took some time to complete, as the movie was almost 8 hours in length! Ry, the CWG, and CURA were all very helpful throughout this process and congratulated me on my work, which was very nice!
The Milestone report was a big challenge to complete as well, but it was really interesting and I am happy I was the one in charge of this assignment. I had to ask a lot of questions within the group as to what has happened over the past year (budget, goals, etc.) and compile a report for CURA. Surprisingly I was able to finish the report quite quickly and was again congratulated on my work. I should share that being a part of such a wonderful group of people was absolutely fantastic and they did nothing but support me throughout the entire internship. I am forever grateful to them and their efforts.
My internship officially ended on June 13th, the date I submitted the Milestone report. I continued to stay in touch with Ry and the rest of the CWG for another month, finishing up some little jobs and giving my input as to some of the problems/questions they were having about their July 19th project at Parc Jean-Drapeau. Unfortunately I was unable to attend this spectacular event, but I heard that it was a huge success and I congratulated the entire team on their hard work and dedication to make such an event possible. I heard that many people were extremely willing to share their stories and take part in the exceptionally Cambodian events and food-tasting, which is wonderful!
All in all, I have no regrets about my experience for the Life Stories Project. Although at times I feel as though I could have done much more to help, I realize now that I was doing the best I could under the circumstances – after all, I am a full-time Honours student and working part-time in order to support myself! Nevertheless, knowing that the team had my full support the entire time is definitely comforting and makes me feel better about not doing everything I could to help the project thrive.
I told many, many people about the Life Stories Project and have recommended it to even more to join the organization in its efforts to bring more information about genocide into the school system. I am a firm believer in the goals of this project and foresee great success in the future. Of course, if the project was willing to have me work again in the future, I would be more than willing to join again.
Finally, I want to thank everyone who made this internship possible, and especially Eve-Lyne, Sandra and Ry – for, without them, I would have been completely lost and without a clue! Thank you for your patience and understanding while I took longer than needed to complete the chronologies given to me (forgive me!) and for all the attention you gave to me over the past eight months.
I wish you all the best – keep working towards your goals!