Event Will Raise Money for Temple’s Final Piece
CHELMSFORD — —When the first wave of Cambodian refugees settled in Lowell during the early 1980s, they used a small apartment located in the Acre neighborhood as a makeshift Buddhist temple.
Phala Chea, who was 7 years old when she arrived in the U.S. from Cambodia, says it took years for the local Cambodian community to raise funds to purchase a space allowing them to properly practice their faith.
The Trairatanaram Temple, located on Quigley Avenue in Chelmsford, is now known as New England’s oldest Cambodian temple. However, as the years pass from its initial opening in 1984, the temple remains missing a key element.
A ground-breaking event is scheduled to take place next month to both celebrate the Cambodian heritage and to raise money for the development of a new structure that would fulfill Trairatanaram Temple’s completion.
“Anyone is welcome,” Chea said. “You don’t have to be a Buddhist to enjoy the event.”
Currently, the temple property lacks a structure, known as a “vihear,” used to practice religious services and teachings, and to house a library that holds religious scripture. Currently at Trairatanaram Temple, the purposes often reserved for the vihear are being carried out inside the property’s function hall.
In December, town officials approved the construction of a 2,800-square-foot structure that is expected to cost roughly $1.103 million, according to Chea’s father, Tem Chea. With the entirety of the funding in hand, the project would take 20 weeks to complete.
“It’s a very ambitious project,” Tem Chea said.
Members of the temple have been fundraising for the vihear’s construction for approximately a year, but are still short of the needed funds, Phala Chea pointed out.
With that in mind, the groundbreaking fundraiser is scheduled to start at 3 p.m. on June 1. The event will include a blessing of the property and traditional Cambodian music.
Members of the community are also encouraged to show up at any time for a continuation of the event on June 2.
The Trairatanaram Temple is located at 21-25 Quigley Ave., Chelmsford. For more information, call 978-251-0615 or visit facebook.com/trairatanaram.temple3 .
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