Former Cambodian refugees find sweet success in America

Former Cambodian refugees Ky and Chhary Phuon achieve the American dream by opening a donut shop in Danville, California.

While big-name coffee chains are popular across America, there’s only one place locals in Danville, California, recommend.

For over 3 decades, locals have seen the smiling faces of Ky and Chhary Phuon every day of the week at their donut shop.

Their donut shop, Christy’s Donuts, has become a neighborhood staple, but the prospect of this American dream wasn’t always so sweet. No strangers to struggle, Ky and Chhary Phuon are former Cambodian refugees.

In 1975, when Pol Pot came to power in Cambodia, over 3 million people lost their lives. Many, like the Phuons had no choice but to flee for their lives; others died when they were unable to flee in time. At the time Ky Phuon was only 9 years old but he was sent to a labor camp for boys. During his time there he suffered terribly, barely able to survive. Ky managed to survive his time in the work camp until the war ended and his family could flee to Thailand as refugees.

They lived in a refugee camp for three years after sneaking across the Thai border in the dead of night.

They reached the refugee camp after days of walking through mine-laced fields and staying hidden. Even when they made it to the refugee camp, they weren’t safe. Since they came there illegally, they were in constant fear of being deported as illegal refugees. This life is a far cry from where Ky and Chhary Phuon are today. In fact, they worked non-stop for years perfecting their donuts and their business strategy.

These former Cambodian refugees are now new Americans and view their close-knit donut shop as their American dream.

Hard work and dedication helps the Phuons maintain Christy’s Donuts and their small team of dedicated staff helps them keep overhead costs low. Since they’re a small business, they have to be good at what they do to keep up with the rising business costs across California. Luckily, they’ve perfected their formula, and their donuts are more popular than ever. Their business recovered from early struggles, and Christy’s Donuts has become a familiar part of the neighborhood.

To their neighbors, they’re not refugees or outsiders, but hardworking Americans who they’ve come to view as an extended family.

Ky and Chhary Phuon prove that the American dream is possible, no matter how humble one’s beginnings.

Refugees shaking hands

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About Akudo McGee
Akudo McGee is a recent graduate from the University of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. McGee has a Masters degree in European studies. Her field of focus is forced migration.