Jim’s History Corner – South East Asian Assistance Program
In the early 80’s a number of Asian refugee families from Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam were re-settled in the Twin Cities region through the Southeast Asian Resettlement Assistance Program. For their involvement in this program, the YMCA of Minneapolis decided to set aside 5 acres of land at Camp Manitou as a garden for the raising of vegetables including corn. Ten to fifteen families of Hmong, Laotian and Cambodian descent worked the 5 acres of land for several years.
The 5 acres of land was located just west of the entrance to the southern boat landing on Bertram Lake and south of the horse barn. Currently the land has pine trees on it but in 1984 it was a cornfield. The land was divided among the 3 groups with seed corn and seeds from their native countries provided. Often Mike M. (camp director) was invited to lunch to sample the Asian cuisine. Some was very hot!
Transportation to Camp Manitou was provided by the YMCA along with translators who would help the refugees with their English. Furthermore, coming out to the field during the weeks and weekends would give them something to do and it must be remembered that these were extended families with children involved. Aside from the garden, they also maintained a chicken coop for about 300 chickens to supplement their diet. Out of superstition, they preferred colored chicken to white chicken because they believed that white chicken would make you sick.
All in all it was an excellent program offered by the YMCA that provided the refugees with a few years to help make their transition to America easier.