Members of Watt Samaki, a Cambodian Buddhist temple in Buxton, Maine, announced a fundraising campaign on August 10. The community plans to build a new monastic residence, cultural and community center, traditional temple, and music and events hall on 12 acres of recently acquired land in Westbrook, which sits between Buxton and Maine's largest city. , Portland.
The proposed project is to take place in two phases and the campaign aims to raise US$1,5 million. According to the plan, US$1 million will be spent on the community center and monastic residence, which will be built over the next 1-3 years. Construction of the traditional temple will begin over the next 3-5 years at an estimated cost of US$500. Cambodian community members who are builders and contractors donate their labor to the project to reduce costs.
The community said it became clear during the pandemic that a new, larger space would be needed for the growing Cambodian community practicing in Buxton. There are currently around 2 Cambodians living in Maine, many of whom have lived in the state for over 000 years, having arrived during the persecution and destruction that took place under the Khmer Rouge, who ruled Cambodia from 40 to 1974.
Marpheen Chann, Founder and President of Khmer Maine, an organization that focuses on supporting local Cambodians, and partner in the upcoming Watt Samaki project, said, “Our community has called Maine home for half a century now, and just like the Italians, Irish and French communities that have come here before us, it's time to step up and say we're Maine too. (WGME)
Chann added, “During COVID, the Khmers in Maine wanted to work with the temple because they serve a lot of our elders and elders, and that's a population we hoped to serve during this time. » (The forecaster)
Additionally, the temple's current space is too small for large festivals, such as Pchum Ben, and Kachin and Cambodian New Year celebrations, which could attract up to 300 people, according to Chann.
"In a rural area of this size, it just showed us that the community had grown to such a point that it wasn't going to work in the future," Chann said. “In conversations with the temple over the years, we've suggested that maybe it's time to find a new location and a new city to work with.” (The forecaster)
According to Chann, Westbrook was chosen because it "already has a good number of Cambodian families and households", and because the town was welcoming to the project and the Cambodian community, going so far as to suggest sites that would suit the best to Buddhists. buildings. (The forecaster)
“It was really important to me, in facilitating the connection between the temple and the city, that the city offered an olive branch in this way. It was really something important for the temple to hear because a city was willing to offer help in a way. It gave the temple an indication that the town of Westbrook is a place they could work with,” Chann explained. “We are here to bring culture, arts, diversity and gastronomy, which brings dynamism and tourism to a region. The city being open to a temple there was huge. (The forecaster)
The new community center will provide space for the teaching and performance of traditional dance, music and arts. It will also be open to the whole community. The trails that exist on the current site will be maintained and will remain accessible to the public.
“The temple honors the past, and the cultural and community center deals with what we do in the present and move forward as a community,” Chann said. “Khmer people in Maine will be able to facilitate access for other BIPOC communities to enter land and walk forest trails that they know belong to a community of color rather than the state. Being in nature helps healing and provides space for meditation and prayer. (The forecaster)