2013 Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Heroes - KPBS
Amnesty International, Group 137
After a traumatic childhood in Cambodia during the civil war, Ms. Sophak Yem escaped with her mother and brother and came to San Diego. At the age of ten, Ms. Yem attended school for the first time and learned English. As an adult, Ms. Yem supported her family by working. Determined to earn a college degree, Ms. Yem went back to school and enrolled at San Diego State University, where she earned her degree in Accounting.
In addition to providing for her family, Ms. Yem got involved with the San Diego chapter of Amnesty International as a volunteer. The global human rights organization works on behalf of prisoners of conscience and other victims of human rights violations. Soon after joining Amnesty International as a volunteer, Ms. Yem became the chapter’s coordinator and has held the position for the past three years. She runs the groups semi-monthly meetings, organizes letter-writing campaigns, plans the group’s participation in community events, and travels to attend regional and national conferences on behalf of the San Diego chapter. Ms. Yem has ensured the chapter works on human rights issues on both a global and local level.
Mr. Elmer Bisarra has been actively involved in the San Diego HIV and AIDS community. Mr. Bisarra earned his certification as a Drug and Alcohol Counselor and began to volunteer with Asian Pacific Islander Community AIDS Project (APICAP). Additionally, he offered his time by volunteering at the Operation Samahan Health Clinic in National City to assist with HIV testing. Mr. Bisarra continued to pursue education of HIV and AIDS, substance abuse, mental illness, and more. Mr. Bisarra was the first HIV Case Manager at San Diego American Indian Health Center. For many years he has also served on the San Diego County HIV Health Services Planning Council.
He volunteers his time to Being Alive, San Diego's provider of comprehensive support for people living with HIV and AIDS, and the community. During the past year as a volunteer at Being Alive, Mr. Bisarra has been working with associates to open a clinic for Hepatitis that provides testing, counseling, and social services. Mr. Bisarra continues to educate both the San Diego community and the Asian Pacific Islander community about outreach and support for HIV and AIDS.
View Past Asian Pacific American Heritage Month Honorees