Profile of Courageous Leadership: Samnang Touch
My name is Samnang Touch. My wife's name is Son. We are the parents of 20 orphaned children at the Prek Eng 6 Children's Home in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We have four biological children. Two are studying at university, and two live with us at Prek Eng 6.
When I was a small child, my country was destroyed by war. When I was only seven years old, I became an orphan when my parents were killed by Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge regime.
During their reign, I lived with with my grandmother, who was very poor. We worked hard every day, but had almost no food to eat.
After the Khmer Rouge was defeated by the Vietnamese Army in 1979, I was sent to live in an institutional orphanage. There were more than 200 children and fewer than 10 adults. I received no love, no care and very little food. I had no opportunity to study, no hope for my future. In fact, life in that orphanage was quite similar to life under the Khmer Rouge — when the dinner bell rang, we all scrambled with our little bowls and received only a tiny portion of rice. We ate and went to bed hungry, dirty, scared and alone.
When I was 15, our country's new communist masters, the Vietnamese, forced me to become a soldier and sent me to fight against Khmer Rouge holdouts in the jungles of Cambodia. I was terrified, but I was also eager to get revenge on the animals who killed my parents and demolished my country.
But when I finally met the enemy in battle, I saw that they were just like me. They weren't monsters — they were mortal men. And many were my age, confused and as scared of me as I was of them.
The fighting was horrible, and many of my friends died. During one battle, I stepped on a landmine that shredded my leg and almost ended my life. My unit abandoned me, and I was sure I would die.
God protected me and I was discovered by another faction’s soldiers, who took me to a refugee camp at the Cambodian/Thai border. The camp was badly overcrowded, housing more than 175,000 refugees. Medical care at the camp was insufficient for treating injuries as severe as mine. I was brought to another camp where I almost died from infection and loss of blood. It took me almost a year and a half to recover from my injuries.
While in the refugee camps, I first heard the gospel. I understood that God loved me and had protected me for a reason. I dedicated my life to serving him. In 1993, the UN shut down the camps and sent me and all of the other refugees back to our hometowns. Upon my return, I began working for Campus Crusade doing outreach in the small towns and villages around Cambodia. During this time I met and fell in love with my wife. After receiving permission from her parents, we married. We have been serving God together ever since, first with Campus Crusade, then with World Relief and now with Asia's Hope.
We first met Savorn Ou, director of Asia's Hope Cambodia, when we worked together with Campus Crusade. Asia's Hope has a very good reputation in Cambodia, and we prayed for years to have the opportunity to work with our good friend Savorn. In 2015, God provided us that opportunity.
At first the transition to Asia's Hope was challenging. We had experience with our own biological kids, but it was difficult taking in 20 kids from different backgrounds, many of whom were traumatized, abused, sick and developmentally delayed.
But like all of the Asia's Hope parents, we committed to loving these kids as our own. And with God's help and the support of the Asia's Hope staff, we have learned how to open our hearts, how to run a large household and how to make a new kind of family.
We're very busy, but we have all of the financial, emotional and spiritual support we need. We're proud to work with an organization that is raising a generation of kids who will change not only their own lives but our whole country.
I know that God has specifically called and uniquely prepared my wife and I to care for these kids. I can identify with them, and they can identify with me. God has used the poverty, pain and loneliness of my own childhood to give me the courage to lead this household. We thank God, we thank our supporters, we thank Asia's Hope.
Learn how Asia's Hope can guide your family, your church or your business into courageous leadership on behalf of the world's most vulnerable children. Contact us today.