Town Engineer Yem Lip will make the long trip back to Cambodia this November after 24 years
- From: Chim <ChimS1@xxxxxxx>
- Date: Wed, 24 Oct 2007 02:47:55 -0700
Former refugee set to visit homeland
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
By SANDRA E. CONSTANTINE
SOUTH HADLEY - Town Engineer Yem Lip will make the long trip back to
Cambodia this November after 24 years in this country.
Lip, 37, said he is excited about the journey to visit relatives. He
will make the trip with his mother and one of his five brothers. Lip
and his family left his native country in 1979 for a U.N. refugee camp
in nearby Thailand with the idea of eventually moving to this country.
They wanted to escape the chaos in Cambodia as well as seek a better
life in the United States, Lip said during a recent interview at his
home on College View Heights.
Lip's father was a rice farmer in the village of Battambang near the
Thailand border. Because his family was involved
in farming and was apolitical, it did not lose any members to the
genocide perpetrated by Khmer Rouge, the Communists who controlled the
country from 1975 to 1979. The Khmer Rouge, under Pol Pot, were
responsible for massacring more than a million people.
Farmers were not targeted during the regime of the Khmer Rouge, which
promoted an agrarian society, according to Lip's wife, Shauna J.
If there were hardships during the three years his family was in the
refugee camp in Thailand, Lip, a very quiet man, does not talk about
"It was tough, but as a kid you tend to make the best of everything,"
After three years in Thailand, Lip's family moved on to spend a year
in another U.N.-run refugee camp in the Philippines. That camp was set
up to prepare refugees for the countries in which they were to be
resettled and was where Lip learned English.
With help from Lutheran Family Services in Amherst, the family lived
first in Northampton and moved shortly to Easthampton, where Lip
completed high school.
Lip got special help in English at Northampton's John F. Kennedy
Middle School for four months before entering mainstream classes.
"At 13, you catch up pretty fast," Lip said. "I really don't remember
it being hard at all, just the shock of a new culture."
After graduating from Easthampton High School in 1990, Lip went on to
attend the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he started
off as a landscape architecture major. However, he said he grew weary
of the time spent making models and doing public speaking at
presentations and switched to civil engineering.
"It's bricks and mortars," Lip said of engineering.
Part of the attraction of the field is that he can spend time
outdoors, according to Lip.
After working in the Boston area, Lip and Cain moved back to this area
about two years ago when Lip took an engineering position in the South
Hadley Department of Public Works.
Lip and Cain have known each other since junior high school days in
Northampton and have been a couple since their first year as college
students in Amherst.
The couple lives with their three young sons in the house formerly
occupied by Theodore B. and Laura J. Belsky. The Belskys have been
very active in civic affairs over the years.
Lip, who speaks English without an accent, won a Khmer poetry award at
the age of 11. The honor resulted from a competition that included
adults, according to Cain, who describes her husband as calm and
Lip said he maintains the Asian custom of being very family oriented.
The town official also maintains some Buddhist traditions, something
he said is not incompatible with his family's attendance of First
Congregational Church of South Hadley.
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