Three-month-old Ava and older sister Aleeya help their dad

Three-month-old Ava and older sister Aleeya help their dad

The wok is on for Wokathon

The Rice Box donates all profits from fundraiser Jan. 6, including wages and tips, to Vernon Jubilee Hospital and Cambodia Support Group

The annual Rice Box Wokathon is now a Vernon tradition. It kicks off each new year with a focus on food, fun and fund-raising.

The Fourth Annual Wokathon will be held this Sunday, from noon to 7 p.m., by Rice Box proprietor On Ouch and his staff. All revenue ­— not just profits ­— is split between Vernon Jubilee Hospital (VJH) and the Cambodia Support Group (CSG).

“The staff members even donate wages and tips,” said Ouch.

Ouch came to Canada in 1989 with his dad Ath, mom Loeung, brother Oeun, and sisters Maly and Malim. CSG, which resettled 204 refugees in Canada, found at All Saints Anglican Church an eager response to its request for aid to the Ouch family.

Following a decade of devastation in Cambodia and another decade of suffering and frustration in refugee camps, the parents and four children arrived as traumatized refugees with just two boxes of belongings. Winter arrival made weather their first big shock.

“My son Oeun stepped from the plane,”  “feel deep cold, then run back inside!” laughed Ath, adding that it took some coaxing to get the boy out at last.

In Canada’s cold but a warm Vernon welcome, the family flourished.  Generously offered by All Saints’ congregation and many Vernon supporters were material and financial support, English training, exposure to Canada’s many systems like health care and banking, and a strong social network.

The Ouch parents and kids alike took full advantage of every chance to advance, and have been happy and productive in work, school and community life.

“Refugees sponsored to smaller centres like Vernon feel deeply, and soon, at home in Canada,” says CSG president Arne Sahlen.  “Refugee helpers in big cities may need a whole day just for one activity, but in smaller places the shorter times and distance make it all easier — more like forging friendships than committee  work.”

On speaks with special intensity about fundraising for Vernon Jubilee Hospital.

“My family knows firsthand how wonderful VJH is, and we know firsthand how much health care matters, and the Rice Box honours VJH for its great service,” he said. “Health care was nonexistent in Cambodia’s worst times, and even well after the UN rebuilding project began in 1992, there was just one doctor for thousands of patients.”

The annual Wokathon takes place Sunday, noon to 7 p.m., at the Rice Box, 3104-27th St., next to 7-Eleven.

Customers can place orders by phone-in, walk-in or texting in (for experienced text-orderers only on this busy day, On advises), but the best method for things to go smoothly is by online orders because they are printed immediately.

For more information, please call the Rice Box at 250-545-9929 or see their web site at