The Grace of “Being Orange” Bringing Education to Children of Cambodia, a Woman Finds the True Meaning of Her Own Life

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Jamie C Amelio

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It all began with a dollar. When Srelin, an eight-year old Cambodian girl approached Jamie Amelio and asked for a dollar so she could afford to go to school, Amelio was skeptical. Was this just another beggar’s ruse? Amelio was visiting Cambodia for the first time, and was shocked at the filth and abject poverty. Entire villages lacked plumbing and electricity. Mothers on the streets pleaded with her to take their babies so they might have a chance at a good life. And this child wanted a dollar for school? A doubtful Amelio nevertheless told Srelin that if she would take her to visit the school, she would give her the dollar. What Amelio found at the school changed her life. In Graced with Orange, you’ll read the story of how Amelio discovered 75 hungry, impoverished Cambodian children crowded into a single room with bars on the windows, waiting patiently for a teacher who never showed up. The students shared a pencil they had broken into small pieces, and had few other school supplies. And this was a school that students had to pay to attend! The situation was less surprising when Amelio learned that Cambodia was still reeling from the murder of 2 million people by the Khmer Rouge (The movie, The Killing Fields was based on this) a few decades ago – including anyone who was educated – All teachers, and even anyone with glasses, were ruthlessly disposed of. Amelio invested herself into making lasting change in a country that cried out for it. She vowed to make a difference and she did. She established “Caring for Cambodia”, that in the next 10 years built 16 life-changing schools, and the opportunity for young people to learn in a safe, nurturing environment with motivated teachers. Equally as inspirational is the story of how Amelio’s life, marriage, and children’s lives were profoundly changed by the children of Cambodia. Or as her eldest son says, “Cambodia saved my life.”

About the author: Texas native Jamie C. Amelio is the founder and CEO of Caring for Cambodia, which trains teachers and provides schools, houses, supplies and meals for impoverished Cambodian children. She’s a three-time recipient of the prestigious “Golden Hand Service Award” by the Cambodian government (2005, 2010, 2012). Known as “The Lawn Mower” because she never lets grass grow under her feet, Amelio had been a dedicated volunteer with various organizations long before beginning the Caring for Cambodia project detailed in Graced with Orange. She and her husband, Bill, lived in Asia for a decade. They now make their home in Austin, Texas with their six children, including two from Cambodia.
Date Recorded: 9/5/2012

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