In January 2005 , I was privileged to be able to make a short trip to Cambodia.
On each trip, I am able to enjoy the wonderful accomplishment that Sam Relief contributes too. This past year farmers in Cambodia have had rough year due to a lack of rain. The diminished amount of crops creates a higher poverty level. When Sam Relief donates a ton of rice, we are literally saving lives. While in Cambodia , I worked on the preparations for 2005 Relief mission in August of this year. I have listed some of the projects that we are working on. As you see our mission positively effects the health and livelihood of the people in my country.
I hope you are as excited as I am and reach in your heart to help.
- This year we build two new schools:
- The first is due to a single contribution from Mr. Clifford Laughton and will be built in my home town of Svay Rieng province.
- The second is due a single contribution from Elizabeth Updike and will be built in the Khet Kandale Province in honor of her daughter Olivia who was born there.
- At Takeo Province , we donated 10 tons of rice and 21 wells.
- At Kam Pong Cham Province, we donated 10 tons of rice and 20 wells to help these impoverished areas thrive.
- We forged a partnership with Friends without a borders. In the name of Sam Relief, they are helping Angkor Hospital , distribute 10 tons of rice to the sick children for nourishment.
- I visited ASPECA orphanage where we provide scholarships to students who live and attend school there.
I offer my continued Thank for your support.
President & Founder
The Ritz-Carlton Gala May 18
It was overwhelming beyond my expectation at the success of this 2005 Fund Raising Gala. Especially from all of you, any contribution, that will certainly bring joy and happiness to children in Cambodia.
Good evening ladies and gentlemen,
Before we start I would like to present a small gif to Sam Relief Boards of Adviser and three special guests.
- Mr. Bill Batdorf
- Mr. Bill O'Donnell
- Mr. Don Kroll
- Mr. Jerry Essenmacher
- Mr. James Rogers
- Mr. Joe Bross
- Mr. Pete Sather
First I want to thank Ms. Colleen Evans who offers us this room for tonight's Gala. Ms. Colleen has a good heart for the poor children in Cambodia.
It is an honor to be here and is an honor to have a lot of good friends like all of you, who come to support my foundation Sam Relief,Inc.
Thank you to my wife who puts up with me everyday when I have to sit in front of my computer to work on Sam Relief projects.
Thank you to all my members of my board of advisers: Bill Batdorf. Mr. Clifford Laughton, Bill O'Donnell, Jerry Essenmacher and Don Kroll, who assist me when I need it.
Thank you to my brother Bopha Lek who works hard in Cambodia to make sure all the students whom we sponsor get enough support from Sam Relief. He also looks after all the schools during their construction.
Thank you to Mr. John Broderick and Mr. Ryan Maher, who donated Ketel One vodka.
Thank you to Ms. Karen McMullen who donated two cases of wine for Auction.
Thank you to my friend Miguel Castro and his friends who are playing Music for us tonight.
So far we have built 8 schools and dug 270 wells for the neediest people in Cambodia.
I would like to express my gratitude and thanks to Mr. Clifford Laughton who donated $60,000.00 to build three schools and sponsored a student to attend school.
I especially want to say "hat's off" to my friend Steve Meagher who I have known for the last 29 years. I served him before he was 21. He also donated two schools and possibly one more school this year in my home town.
Thank you to Mr. Barry Cochran and his friend Rolen , Dr. Chrea and Dr. Sayni who have donated Tylenols over the past three years.
Thank you to Liz Updike who worked hard to raise $20,000.00 to build Olivia school at Khet Kan Dale. Next year she will continue to help raising money to build another school next to Olivia school.
Thank you to Mr. Peter Hyland who also raises money to build Sam Relief orphanage at Kep. Kam Pot Province.
This year we will have two schools to inaugurate including school supplies for over 2000 students.
Also we will assist the handicapped students by giving school supplies, 20 wells and 10 tons of rice - food for work- for irrigation at Koh Sotin, Kam Pong Cham Province . These 10 tons of rice were sponsored by Mr. Daniel and Arminda O'Connell. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. O'Connell.
Thank you Mr. Stacy Lloyd who sponsored 10 tons of rice for irrigation- food for work -at Takeo province and sponsored a student, Sok Len, to attend university.
We donated 21 wells at Takeo province and 20 wells at Svay Rieng Province.
Sam Relief will help - Friends Without Boarders - provide 10 tons of rice to the children's hospital. These 10 tons of rice were sponsored by Mayor Roger Claar.
This past year has been rough for Cambodian farmers due to a lack of rain. The diminished amount of crops creates a higher poverty level. When Sam Relief donates a ton of rice, we are saving lives.
Last week I got a call from a friend in Cambodia that needs emergency help as due to a lack of water. They need Sam Relief's help digging wells.
To night I would like to ask some of you to donate a well for these desperate families.
They need 10 wells and each well costs $300.00 at that area.
One friend that we deeply missed tonight is the former Ambassador Roland Eng who has put his heart into helping Sam Relief for the past four years. Sam Relief returns his generous support by supporting his orphanage and enabling 50 Students to attend school. As well as we sponsored 34 students to attend school and university. Altogether we had 84 students to take care of for this year.
- 2002 we raised $18,000.00 at the Cambodian Embassy
- 2003 We raised $26,000.00 at the Ritz-Carlton
- 2004 We raised $52,000.00 at the Cambodian Embassy
- This year we send out 630 invitations. We got 250 responses. 120 attend to night and 130 couldn't attend but they send donations.
- 2005 up to date now we raise $105,800.00.
Again thank you to all of you and my Sam Relief team for tonight.
Many of you have seen my Magic trick behind the Bar but tonight you will see the real Magic Trick on the DVD.
Thank you so much Mr. Joe Bross and Mr. James Rogers who made and donated DVD.
Please enjoy your evening.
Sambonn Lek President & Founder
Sam Relief, Inc.
Our first honored guest tonight is Mrs. Virginia, Rose Lopez Keravuori. Thank you Mrs. Keravuori for sharing with us your very moving experience in Cambodia.
May 18, 2005 Speech at the Ritz-Carlton From Mrs. Virginia, Rose Keravuori
Good evening Ladies and Gentlemen,
It was great honor to be here tonight.
According to the 2001 World Ranking Human Development Index, Cambodia is one of the world's poorest countries, ranked 121 st out of 162. The average of income is just $270.00 per year. This lack of resources is reflected in the country's educational standards: of those Cambodian 15 and older, 20 % of the men are illiterate and 42% of the women.
But when I visited Cambodia , it was warm and friendliness of the people that I noted the most. There is poverty, but lack of desire to learn. When my husband and I toured the awe-inspiring site of Angkor Wat, a little girl tagged along after us, chattering to us and listening to every word we spoke. She did not want money or candy; she just wanted to be able to practice her English. This makes me mindful of poet William Butler Yeats's wonderful line: Education is not the filling of pail, but the lighting on the fire".
Our gracious host tonight, Sambonn Lek, defines the world in more straightforward terms: Education is the most wholesome and effective approach to combat and alleviate poverty."
In fact, both definitions are correct: education is a purifying fire that gives both the desire and the opportunity to change their lives and the lives of other for the better.
I am very fortunate that in my own life, I was given a love of learning at the early age by my parents, particularly my father, a professor at the local college.
And thank you our host, many Cambodians have been given the same gift, through his efforts to guild and sustain schools, provide school supplies, reading materials and glasses with which to read them.
This is truly a worthy cause, since as the world Bank's Managing Director for Human Development point out, " Student who fail to complete 5 or 6 years of schooling remain functionally illiterate for the rest of their lives and their chances of living in poverty are greatly increased." Here at home one well known American institution sums it up this way: "a mind is a terrible thing to waste."
So tonight we celebrate our host's determination to help his countrymen develop their minds, and rejoice in the opportunity to be a part of his effort, that we may help light the fire of education in our turn.
Mrs. Virginia, Rose Keravuori
Strategic Intelligence Group
Appreciation notes from Center for creative Living, Asheville, North Carolina,USA
About a year and a half ago, I met an extraordinary Cambodian American named Sambonn Lek in Washington , DC . Sam has been building schools and helping children in Cambodia through his non profit 501(3)(c) organization, SAM Relief, Inc. for the past five years.
My daughter, Olivia, was adopted in 2001 from an orphanage in the Bakou Village of the Kandal Province which is located south of Phnom Penh . She was nine and a half months old when I went to Cambodia to bring her home. It was my first visit to Cambodia . When I went to her orphanage for the first time, I was met by 125 children who had rehearsed songs in English to welcome me. They smiled, laughed and were so happy to see me and to receive the toys that I had brought to them. There was no furniture, no plumbing, no toys and very little food for the orphans in this simple orphanage that resembled a campground. There was also no real opportunity for these orphans for a better life.
As a new mother, and a first time visitor to this desperate country, I was absolutely heart broken to see children living the way that they did. I cried many tears over the hopelessness of so many children. I had never personally experienced firsthand this type of poverty as it related to children, not to mention the stories of human trafficking that I had heard was predominant among the children, especially the children who are orphans in Cambodia . As I looked into my beautiful daughter's face and cuddled her in my arms, I felt the blessing of being able to bring one little girl child home with me and the relief of one less child on the streets of Cambodia. I also wanted to do more.
I was deeply moved to action and was getting ready to begin another adoption from the same orphanage, when the U.S. State Department shut down adoptions from Cambodia and stopped issuing visas to grant entrance to Cambodian children who had been adopted by Americans. I waited four years for the United States to re-open Cambodian adoptions. It still has not happened. We, as Americans, cannot take any of these children into our homes by way of adoption at this current time. There are approximately 200,000 or more orphaned children in Cambodia , many are beautiful and smart children who just need a chance.
SAM Relief, Inc. gave me the opportunity to give some of those children a different kind of chance, a chance for an education. In Cambodia only 46% of the villages have a primary school. Many of the children do not get a chance to get to a school if it is not within walking distance due to the risks involved.
SAM Relief, Inc. builds two schools a year in Cambodia . I asked Sambonn Lek, the President and founder of this relief organization, to build a school on behalf of my daughter, Olivia, in the village where her orphanage is located. Sam agreed. All I had to do was raise $20,000.
I had never taken on this type of project before, but I knew that my heart was in it for the children, so I just started asking people to help me out, either with a donation or a way to raise money. The church I belonged to in Asheville , North Carolina held a fundraising campaign and raised almost $7,000. I had an open house and "tag sale" at my home in northern Virginia and raised $1,800. A friend of mine in North Carolina held a silent auction at her home and raised $1,100, and it began from there. I sold scarves from Cambodia at Christmas for $15 each and got donations of $50 and $100 in exchange. A friend at work helped me send an email out to some of my co-workers. Checks began coming in the mail. My manager let me speak about the school at a company meeting. More checks came in the mail and word of mouth spread. More and more people began to participate to help make this dream happen.
In the end, we raised $22,000 from over 235 people plus the church congregation. The money was raised one donation at a time with no donation less than $10 or more than $1,000. With every donation, I grew more and more convinced that people really do care and they really do want to help, all you have to do is ask and then show them a way.
If you think about it, $22,000 is very little for what we were able to accomplish. We built a new school, provided books, pencils, pens, shoes, medical supplies, t-shirts, rice, and teachers for 750 children. We impacted a village and will change the lives of 750 children forever. In Cambodia , 56% of the population is under the age of 19 years. The future of this country depends on the education, care and safety of the children.
We dedicated "Olivia's School" in the Bakou Village of the Kandal Province on August 8, 2005 . Since Olivia's 5 th birthday was August 11, 2005 , we decided to really make it an event and have a birthday party and a ribbon cutting at the same time. Sam ordered a cake and 750 cupcakes and bottles of water for the children. They learned how to sing "Happy Birthday" in English and sang and cheered as Olivia blew out her candles. It was one of the best birthday parties that I have ever attended. We gave the school and we got the love and hope of 750 children in return.
Now that we are back to the comfort of our home and our life in Virginia , we are reliving this experience through our pictures and memories. Just thinking of the hope of those dear children tells me that we are not stopping with just one school.
The children at the orphanage eat a bowl of rice only once a day. They need vitamin enriched food as well as medicine. They need to be encouraged to continue with their education and go to the school. However, the new school is small and the children must attend in shifts, and there is no junior high school. There is continuous need for food and medicine, shoes and books for all the children of the village.
By going to Cambodia to see "Olivia's School"and to attend the dedication was to meet the children and see how much having this school means to them. I saw how the money that we worked so hard to raise was put to work. I saw how diligent Sambonn Lek and his family as well as the board of trustees for Sam Relief, Inc. work to make sure that every penny that is donated is well spent and applied 100% to the mission of helping the children and building the schools. I am proud and grateful for what we did, for what we all did, all 235 or so, plus SAM Relief, Inc. and I pray that next year we can do more.
A Letter from Pete and Rose Sather
Our trip to Cambodia was the most profound experience of our lives.
Our trip started as just talk and before we knew it materialized into a definite plan, airline tickets, and finally the day of departure. We read guidebooks beforehand, but we would never have been prepared for the things we did, the lives we touched, and the people we met.
After arriving at the airport, we went to our hotel in Phnom Penh to meet Leknah, the first of our sponsored children. Her mother worked as a hotel maid, and she was expecting our arrival. She walked into our room with a timid and shy look on her face, and her mother and grandfather in tow. The first few moments were very emotional, it was a moment where Rose didn't know how to respond, she was nervous, anxious, and had so much to say.
They managed through translation, to chat about her studies, her health, and her general well being. Her father took her brother, and abandoned her mother with two young daughters. Her mother and the girls live with her father and the mother spends long hours at the hotel trying to make a life for her daughters. Without our sponsorship, it is doubtful they would be able to attend school or have any hope for a future.
After we said our goodbyes amid emotional blessings, our group drove about 3 hours out to the coastal town of Kep . It was a beautiful beach town, very calm and pristine. The purpose of our visit was to meet the second girl that we sponsor, Imsotheary. We pulled into the orphanage where about fifty or so children, ranging in ages from 2 -25 were waiting for us. We were saddened to learn that the majority of the Cambodian orphans do not have much hope for a successful future if they are not adopted, as there aren't enough resources in the orphanage to provide sufficient schooling. Many children do not receive and education, and are thus unable to obtain jobs or leave the orphanage and become independent. Imsotheary was a ray of sunshine, she was all smiles, and was very outgoing and seemed to have much to say. She said she thought of us- her sponsors, and it made her happy to think of us and she considered us her parents. She also said she hoped to maintain sponsorship to attend school, and her dream is to become a judge because she sees so much injustice in the world and wants to change things for the better. We think of her every day and want to do all that we can to help her achieve and her dreams; she makes us truly happy.
The rest of our trip was a tour through various provinces meeting children with less opportunity or hope for a successful future, children hoping for the chance to attend school and have clothes to wear and food to eat. We visited other orphanages and hospitals, and we were overcome with emotion and the feeling of hopelessness that pervaded. The orphanages and hospitals lacked proper funding to provide heath care and meals to the children who reside there.
During our visit, we distributed medical supplies, clothes, and candy to as many families as we could. Though we brought three huge suitcases full of clothing and supplies, when we got there, it didn't seem we had brought enough. We had the opportunity to change so many lives with our donations - and we had no idea how profound it was until we actually met those receiving our gifts and saw the gratitude on their faces. We had donated consistently, but had never before worked "in the trenches" distributing the supplies and truly thinking of the beneficiaries. On our trip, we saw the other perspective, the happiness that we caused when the Cambodian people saw that we care, that we are compassionate, and that we want to help. There is no greater feeling in the world than to be able to save a life- save a life through sending a child to school, providing meals, health care, and an opportunity for a decent life. And it costs us so little - the impact is huge and many of us have NO idea.
Samrelief's President, Sambonn Lek, is an inspiration for us all. Sam is a selfless, energetic angel, with the biggest heart ever. He sacrifices much for the greater good of all Cambodians. With support from his wonderful family, Sam is able to have people volunteer their time to provide services that allow him to donate 100% of the profit to building schools, buying books, paper, pencils, providing cold medicines and vitamins, and giving children who have no hope the opportunity for a better life.
Without an education, many children in South East Asia add to the staggering statistics of poverty and hopelessness. Samrelief rescues these children from unspeakable hardship and difficulty, and allows them the opportunity for a positive future.
Pete and Rose Sather