Amanda Sam: Cambodian Genocide Survivor

In July 1979, Amanda and her family had to flee their hometown in Cambodia to avoid the Khmer Rouge genocide where 2.5 million people out of the population of 8 million, were killed or died from starvation and disease. Their journey through the jungle was filled with danger.  They drank water with human bodies floating in it, ate food that was spoiled, and walked through rice paddies and grassy land infested with land mines and booby traps. Amanda and her family were separated from each other and it was not until they reached Thailand that her family was reunited in a refugee camp.  However during the journey Amanda lost 2 siblings to starvation and one brother was imprisoned for 7 years.  Amanda came to the United States when she was twelve years old. She had no education and knew no English and was not able to read or write in her own language. Amanda spent the formative years of her childhood in the brutal work camps of the communist Khmer Rouge regime. She witnessed and personally experienced unspeakable acts of cruelty but was able to survive the Cambodian genocide.

In America at 12-years-old, Amanda had never been to school and was placed in the fifth grade where she had to start learning numbers, and the names of colors and objects.  Because she couldn’t communicate, Amanda felt very lonely, but she worked hard, learned the language, and graduated from high school in 1990. Amanda is continually reminded of the sufferings of the Cambodian people who lack the simple things we take for granted: food, shelter, clothing, clean water, schools, and medicine. Knowing herself what it is like to be scared and hungry, she has a strong passion to give back. In 2007, Amanda established a non-profit organization, One Hundred Pounds of Hope, to deliver a sustainable program for the Cambodian poor, to educate them and provide hope for self-sufficiency in the future.

Her life-long dream is to rebuild a school in a very rural part of Cambodia where she was born and where her father taught before they had to flee due to the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. In 2019, a new charity, Helping Others Pursue Education, was founded to build schools and to educate the poorest of poor in hopes of breaking the cycle of poverty and abuse.  Much progress has been made on the school but there is still much to do.  Amanda has owned and operated several hair salons.  She lives in Henrico, Virginia with her 2 sons. Being active in the local Cambodian community she supports the New Cambodian Food Festival of Richmond.   Amanda travels to Cambodia yearly to engage with the rural country side of Cambodia, bringing supplies, to the poorest of poor, visiting with families and children that attend Raing Kessey Primary School.


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