Youth Group Takes on SF…for a day


Written by Jesse Jarreau
CERI has enriched the lives of many Cambodian American families in the Oakland Bay Area. Through their many programs, CERI has provided a safe place for adults and children. CERI’s has three active youth programs for youth aged six to twenty four. The youth programs provide opportunities to experience adventures, peer support, learn leadership skills, receive assistance with academic needs, and counseling.

On June 23rd, 2016, our children’s group spent the day in San Francisco. CERI took 12 inspiring youth to “the city” for a fun-filled day visiting the Aquarium of the Bay and the Musée Mécanique. The youth group kicked off the day by boarding a ferry to San Francisco. The ferry not only provided an environmentally safe and efficient way to travel, but also provided a new perspective on the San Francisco Bay. The ferry gave the youth an opportunity to see iconic structures of the Bay such as the Bay Bridge and the Port of Oakland Cranes up close.

Upon our arrival in San Francisco, we disembarked from the ferry. Walking down the Piers, the youth and the volunteers got to experience the roaring buzz of Fisherman’s Wharf. This lively area only provided more fuel of excitement for the next adventure that was yet to come. After a stroll down the piers, we arrived at the Aquarium of the Bay. The Aquarium brought marine life of the Bay into an interactive learning environment. Whether it was the tunnels of marine life or the Jellyfish Exhibit, the Aquarium of the Bay had something for everyone to love. Our time spent at the Aquarium made all of us hungry! So after a brief break for lunch, our next stop on our bucket list was Musée Mécanique. This vintage arcade left the youth in awe when they discovered it was nothing like the modern arcades that they have been to in the past. After a full day of laughs and giggles (even Laughing Sal could laugh too), our time at Musée Mécanique came to an end.

Our adventure came to a close when our ferry came to meet us at Pier 41. On the ferry ride back, the youth and chaperones were worn out by the day’s excursion. The fresh ocean breeze and slow but gentle rock of the ferry ended a successful outing to the Golden Gate City. In the video below, is a photo show of our time in the Golden City. We hope you enjoy it!

Click on the photo above to watch the photo show.

Shout out to our volunteers Tiana and Olivia for their help to ensure a safe and fun adventure! Thank You!


CERI’s youth programs are made possible by funding generated by prop 63, which is distributed by Alameda County. We also receive grants and philanthropic donations which make it possible to continue our work with Cambodian families in the East Bay.

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2015 in review


The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 520 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 9 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Summer Retreat 2015, The Sequoia National Forest


On August 9th bright and early, we loaded up our truck, bought food and snacks for our long road trip, and headed to the Sequoia National Forest! The next several days we enjoyed hikes, a natural water slide, a bubbling creek near our little village in the woods, and cooking over the fire.

After a long California drought, we found the abundantly gushing waterfalls and creek to be very healing. Apparently lots of wildlife such as bears and deer also found the creek refreshing, but we were careful not to disturb their visits to the stream.

After several days of roughing and toughing it out in the woods, we headed home to Oakland.

We are very grateful to the Devata Giving Circle for contributing funds to our yearly retreat, and providing another memorable experience for our young women. We are also grateful to Maria Remigio and her lovely family. They provided tents and delicious food for all of us. Until next year…!

9am August 9th Loading Up the Truck

Loading Up the Truck

It's a big forest

It’s a big forest.

At last we found our beautiful site.

At last we found our beautiful site.  Our volunteer, Maria and her family, had tents and dinner waiting.


Pitching in



Tunbo, our firekeeper and bear chaser















Hood to the Wood: Hike at Mt. Diablo State Park


In April of 2015 our young women completed a successful hike at Mt. Diablo State Park in Walnut Creek, CA. Our reward was a beautiful view of the bay.


Top of the Mountain Happy Dance

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Classic “We Made It Moment”


A well deserved rest


The youth programs at CERI are supported by funding generated by Prop 63, and awarded through Alameda County. Please click on our donation tab to contribute to all of CERI’s successful programs.

Through the Looking Glass, 2014


Lil’ J plans her trip to Cambodia-stay tuned for an article on her project with an orphanage in Cambodia


H shows off her cooking skills


Srey, youth program assistant


(L) Miss Silva,volunteer and (R) Sreyneang


Love to Dance


Back to School Lunch

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Holiday Celebrations


Creative Writing

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Listening to Jasmin Dial from Game Theory Academy, present her earn-to-learn program


C and A More Balanced World founder, Mandy (R)

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Scrapbooking fun with Maria Ranallo, a wonderful volunteer


Maria Remigio bearing gifts

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Retreat 2014

api womens leadership summit

API Women’s Leadership Summit 2014


The youth programs at CERI are supported by funding generated by Prop 63, and awarded through Alameda County. Please click on our donation tab to contribute to all of CERI’s successful programs.

2014 Asian Pacific Islander Women’s Leadership Summit


by Maria Remigio

On September 20th, 2014, 11 young women from Roya and 24 women from CERI’s adult program joined the 2nd API Women’s Summit, “Building Power, Setting Sail”, held in Oakland, CA.

api womens leadership summit

The program began at 10:00 a.m. with a welcome ceremony. Each community said hello in their own native language and presented an offering as a symbol of gratitude from their culture. Each offering was placed on a small table, surrounded by a circle of women. A few men were present.

The Summit, had a full program presented by the API Women’s Circle. Ten organizational partners, and 25 Workshop Facilitators offered workshops in the areas of employment, wellness and healing, meditation, education and organizing, and raising healthy families. Many of our young women who actively participated in the meditation workshop found it worthwhile.

Roya’s  young women participated in the boat making  project. The boat project included tools. The participants were required to create a list of goals necessary to survive and succeed in a journey to a better life. The young women brainstormed together on goals and developed this list:

  • higher education
  • freedom
  • independence
  • gratitude
  • creativity
  • motivation
  • wise choices
  • respect
  • responsibility
  • stability
  • safety
  • self respect
  • stable source of income


Together, the Roya young women’s group members built one of 13 boats as an exercise in learning leadership skills. The adults and older adults from CERI built two boats. Eleven other communites, Asian American, mixed heritage communities, Bhutanese, Nepali, Filipino, Korean, Mongolian, Myanmar (Burma), Native American, Pacific Islander, Tibetan, and Vietnamese communities also particpated in the boat building exercise.

At the end of the day. Roya’s young women came to the realization that team work was necessary for their personal success as well as the growth of their community. The young women had a great time and expressed the desire to participate in future summits.


The youth programs at CERI are supported by funding generated by Prop 63, and awarded through Alameda County. Please click on our donation tab to contribute to all of CERI’s successful programs.

Peace Begins With Me

by Eiei Phoo
Last Summer I received a scholarship to attend the 2014 Global Youth Peace Summit sponsored by the Amala Foundation. I belong to the young women’s program, Apsara’s Warriors, at CERI, and our program coordinator, Jen Jastrab, asked me if I would be interested in attending the summit. She helped me fill out the application and offered to drive me to the camp. She really wanted someone to represent CERI at the summit. All Jen could tell me was that my experience would be amazing and I would meet people from all over the world. It was true.
 The summit took place in beautiful Forest Hill, CA.
The most important thing I learned at the Amala Global Youth Peace Summit Camp is that people shouldn’t go to sleep with a stone in their heart. This is really hard for some people because some people choose to keep the things that bother them inside their heart and they’re afraid to let their inner emotions be heard. Trying to sleep it off only makes it worse.
I learned how to let go my of negative emotions and my burdens.


At the Amala Global Youth Peace Summmit Camp, I developed a strong connection with my cabin girls. Their life stories spoke to me and I really felt like I connected with them. I met amazing people from all over the world and their words of wisdom inspired me.




This experience made me realize that I shouldn’t care about what people think of me. I should focus on me. I also realized that it’s okay to tell someone how you feel and to ask for help from people.




I learned from the other campers and the staff, that people have their struggles, and when they get through them, we all come out stronger.





I love my Amala Peace Family and I really do miss them. I would recommend other people come to this camp because it helps you to find your inner self and connects your beautiful self with amazing people who are sharing the same experience as you. At Camp Amala you will make friends and learn to ask for help. You won’t feel like you’re alone, you will always have someone by your side.



Funding generated from Prop 63 and awarded through Alameda County supports the youth programs at CERI.

In the the City of Angels


Bright Moments from our 2014 Retreat

Last August, with generous financial donations from the Devata Giving Circle and Asian Pacific Funds, our young women were able to experience a memorable retreat in Los Angeles, CA.


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Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles

MegaBus transportation safely delivered our young women to Los Angeles.


CERI board member and volunteer, Maria Remigio R.N. and her family, graciously hosted our young women and staff for five days. Maria journeys to the bay area once a month to volunteer her time mentoring our young women. 

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The retreat began by paying respects to the family of our beloved Director Mona Afary. Mona recently lost her father, Naim Afary. The young women visited Mona’s mother at her home in L.A. They were doted upon in true Persian style. Flowers and a lovely buffet welcomed the girls.

2014-10-25The Afary family has long supported Mona’s work with the Cambodian community in the East Bay. The visit gave Mrs. Afary the opportunity to make a personal connection with our young women. 

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In the following days the Santa Monica Beach became a favorite destination. We enjoyed more than one afternoon with Maria and her family playing volleyball, building sand castles, and keeping the seagulls from eating our sandwiches. Our young women were able to relax and play along this gorgeous stretch of beach. 


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Temperature: 103!

Temperature: 103!


After a long day in L.A. we kicked back at Maria’s home, playing games, dancing, painting nails, and enjoying one another’s company. Sometimes the best moments are found in just being together and celebrating one another.


We shared an adventurous day with Maria and her family at their desert ranch. For many of the girls it was the first time they rode a horse. Homemade Mexican food completed the five star hospitality received by the girls from Maria’s family. 

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Our final afternoon: L.A. Garment District  

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Bargains galore, corn on a stick and sassy sunglasses, whoa, we needed more than an afternoon to see all of the shops. Next year!

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Sadly we have no photos of our Chubby Bunny champion and the marshmallow fight that followed. When it comes to games we are a competitive bunch! 

IMG_20140815_130910283At our final breakfast we held a closing ritual. Everyone agreed that the week had passed by too quickly. With sadness we packed our bags to catch our bus to Northern California. Before we left we gifted Maria with flowers for her garden to remind her of the beauty she brings to our lives.

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The warmth and closeness we shared throughout this retreat week continues to bless our lives. We are grateful for the support we receive to continue our program, and the many volunteers that share their gifts and talents with us all year long. 


The life changing youth programs at CERI are made possible by funding from Alameda County, generated by prop 63. 

CERI Community Graduation Celebration – Summer 2013



On June 21, 2013, streamers and balloons festively decorated CERI in anticipation of a special evening. Outside the pillars of the building were adorned and inside the young women prepared festive tables and posters for their guests. Grandmas and moms joyously prepared a delicious Cambodian buffet. The rooms of CERI were bursting with family, friends, supporters, volunteers, and community partners.

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 CERI proudly honored three graduating members of ROYA (our youth program):  Thavery Hov, Cynthia Mok and Moustra Johnny. Thavery, a working mother of two, received her GED and High School Diploma. She was awarded a small scholarship from her high school and has already enrolled at Chabot College. She will begin her studies this fall in the field of Child Development. Moustra graduated from Middle School and will attend High School. Cynthia graduated from Oakland Tech High School and aims to attend Merritt College in the fall to prepare for a career in nursing.

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Parents, grandparents, friends and families were beaming with pride as they witnessed the success of the young women. Each graduate wore her cap and gown, had photos taken, and was honored with flowers, gifts and verbal acknowledgements of their accomplishments. Emotions were high for many of the attendees. There were tears of joy, dancing, laughter, smiles and tender moments.


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To everyone’s surprise the young women of ROYA challenged the grandmothers and mothers to a competitive game of musical chairs. The elders proved their advanced skills in chair stealing with each round.  After an initial round, different groups of participants (the young women, the grandmother’s, ROYA staff, and others) also jumped in the fun. The girls took turns playing DJ. This game was truly enjoyed by the community, and resulted in laughter, play, surprise and connection.

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After the community acknowledgements, scrumptious cake and ice cream was served.


Next fall CERI anticipates the celebration of four additional graduates! We invite you to share in our hopes and dreams. CERI community member, Joe Pech eloquently summed up the sentiment of the evening when he stated,     SONY DSC

“The success of one child brings hope to all of the community.”

ceri june 2013 graduation

MHSA LogoCERI’s youth programs are made possible by: funding provided by Prop 63, the Mental Health Services Act (Prop 63 MHSA) Alameda County, support from A More Balanced World, the John Andrew Lang Philanthropic Fund and a number of private donors.

Please consider a donation today by visiting our website:

Photos and text for this posting were contributed by CERI staff.

Reflections on a year at CERI


By Vivian Nguyen

My journey as an Apsara Roya Youth Intern and volunteer began in September of 2012.

At the time, I was a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Psychology with a minor in Global Poverty and Practice. I had been accepted into the Health Services Internship (HSI) program at Cal, which places undergraduate students in public health internships throughout the Bay Area. My public health interests pertained mostly to minority health and global health. For HSI, I was fatefully placed at The Center for Empowering Refugees and Immigrants (CERI) in Oakland. Although I had never heard of CERI before and I had only been to Oakland a grand total of about 3 times, the prospect of a semester-long internship at a non-profit dedicated to the mental health of Cambodian refugees and their families excited me.

I remember my first encounter with CERI clearly–it was a sunny Wednesday afternoon as I boarded the 1R bus line from Downtown Berkeley. Forty minutes later, I was dropped off across the street from the quaint little house where CERI was located. As I walked up the wooden stairs to the second floor, I never imagined how many times I would actually be making this trek. Or how incredibly grateful that I would be to have even found a place like CERI. 

As I stepped into the center, I was immediately struck by the warm energy that radiated throughout. It did not feel like a place of work at all–it felt like a home. A few days later, I began one of the greatest journeys of my life during the Friday young women’s program where I had the privilege of meeting all of the amazing girls – Thavery, Dee, Moda, “Mosta,” Lisa, Nissa, Cynthia, Halissia and Zipporah – along with CERI’s amazing directors and program leaders – Mona, Jen, My Diem and Nancy.

After only a few weeks there, I found myself more and more inspired by the women at CERI. Even though I was only a tutor and mentor, I felt a special connection with the girls. To be honest, I was quite relieved because I was initially anxious about how I would be received by them since I was an ‘outsider.’ But as time went on, they shared with me stories about their lives and little by little, I realized that I didn’t want to just know about these stories – I wanted to become a part of them. I was absolutely thrilled when Mona and Jen invited me to return the following semester and to this day, I am incredibly proud of all the ways that I am able to contribute to CERI. I am also very humbled by my experiences here. Some of the girls have told me that I’m “smart” or that I’m their “role model” – all compliments that I’ve accepted graciously. However, I also remind them of all the ways that they have inspired me and just how much I have learned from simply being in their presence. I am in constant awe of their resilience in the face of hardships and their ability to  how smile and laugh even when undergoing the most difficult of times. Their strength gives me strength, and my time at CERI has only solidified my future goals of pursuing a career in community health. 

My friends are often curious as to why I would willingly sacrifice my Friday nights in order to be at CERI. I respond to their inquiry with a light laugh and tell them that not only do I willingly give up that time, I also do so eagerly. I don’t think they truly understand what CERI means to me and frankly, there are times when even I’m unsure of how I became so invested. All I know is that CERI has become my family and the special bonds that I’ve forged are worth much, much more than Friday nights. 

As I reflect upon my yearlong journey, I feel the deepest sense of gratitude to all those who have contributed along the way. I am honored to have found a place here at CERI and I am excited to see what the future holds for all of us!