Sara Im is a multi-talented woman passionate about inspiring others through her story full of challenges and survival. She’s an author, motivational speaker, aspiring entrepreneur, and holistic wellness consultant. Her mission is to help people find hope, resilience, and positivity in their lives, no matter what challenges may arise.
Growing up in Cambodia, Sara was held captive for four years by the Communist regime. She endured grueling labor in the rice fields, suffered from malnourishment and illness, and was sent to a death camp. Despite these events, she never gave up hope, and with the help of her faith and a few trusted friends, she escaped and survived. Her hope to reunite with her family has been her guiding light. From facing multiple challenges in her life, Sara dedicates herself to empowering others to overcome obstacles and achieve their dreams.
In this episode, Pamela peeled all the layers of Sara’s story. The highlights of this inspiring conversation are as follows:
- What inspired Sara on her journey to where she is today? How did obstacles and challenges impact her life?
- What are the challenges and hardships Sara faced during the invasion by the communist regime?
- Who and what are her inspirations? What kept Sara’s going?
- How did she get into the US? What are the challenges she faced there?
- How did she finally get to be united with her family?
- The most important lesson that she learned?
- In the next few months, what is coming for Sara?
Sara wrote a book about her experience titled “How I Survived the Killing Fields.” Feel free to check it out here: https://www.saraim.com
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Catch up with Sara here:
- LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/saraim-speaker-author
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SaraImSpeakerAuthor
The Underdog Podcast host is none other than Pamela Bardhi. She’s rocking the Real Estate Realm and has dedicated her life as a Life Coach. She is also Forbes Real Estate Council. To know more about Pam, check out the following:
- Website: https://pamelabardhi.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/pamela_bardhi
- TikTok: https://www.tiktok.com/@pamela_bardhi
Ready to elevate your life and take ownership of your power? Join Pamela for a 15-minute call to set clear goals and build your game plan today! Visit http://meetwithpamela.com/ to schedule your session now.
Click To Read The Transcript
Sara Im’s Resilience Shines through Hardships
Hi, I’m Kevin Harrington, an original shark from the hit television show Shark Tank. and you’re listening to the underdog podcast
Hello, everyone, and welcome to the underdog Podcast. Today I have an incredible guest here with me, Sarah, how are you?
I’m doing good. How are you?
I am doing lovely. Not as lovely as you in the Florida sunshine right now. But you know. Sarah, thank you so much for being here today. It’s such an honour to have you and I’m just so excited to hear all about your story. And just everything that I’ve read about you so far. I’m like, Oh, my goodness, I can’t wait to meet her and learn all about her.
Oh, thank you
so gorgeous. So I’ll start it off with my first question for you, which is, you know. what inspired you on your journey to where you are today.
I feel like I overcome the obstacle in my life. And I learned a lot during those time that manage to overcome them. And I learned a lot and I like to share this with people. because I have plenty of obstacles everywhere, every corner every moment. And if we know how to manage and how to think about all those article. I think that will be better off for us.
Absolutely, Sarah. And I’ve read a little bit about your story. And you mentioned a few of those obstacles. Now, what were some of those obstacles for you kind of throughout your life experience?
Oh, well, I am going to share briefly my first obstacle. Well, I live in the countryside. And I was a firstborn child. So I feel so loved and secure. And I enjoy my life. then when I reach teenage here, my first obstacle, my mom had an accident and she became paralysed, paralysed.
And as the firstborn child, I was taking care of mom and the two little baby brother. So I look at as the obstacle, that block pathway. but it’s also benefit me in a way that I can explain later. But I took care of my mom for four long years. Until she recover.
Yeah, but during those time, we will set your strong love bond between us. So that’s how much I love. I know how much I love my family. I love my mom, I love my brothers. So after that, I graduated from high school. And my parents always encouraged me to go on with my education.
So I pursue my higher education. That means I had to leave home from the countryside. and go to the capital city of Cambodia to attend college that is about 350 miles away from home. And so it was so hard to leave my family behind and everything but for the right reason I did it.
But during those times that I was away from my loved one. my country got horrible thing happened. The communist Khmer Rouge took over our country. They came they invade the country in the they came in, in the military take over. It was scary. Scary.
I see a lot of military trucks and weapons and soldiers with big automatic weapon on their shoulder. and they pursue to take us all captain, they shut down everything in the country. That mean a complete shutdown. That nothing love, that mean, we don’t have a grocery store to go buy anything.
We don’t have the buying to get a money. And we don’t have a post office to deliver on ladder news to a loved one. And the ones line was totally shut down. So I got to So, so fearful. I want to go home so badly, but I can because everything was shut down and also they pursue to to evacuate everybody from all the city.
So that mean, we have to leave everything that we ever have behind and walk away with nothing? Without knowing where to go?
Wow. I mean, you hear so I come from Albania. And they’re, you know, when I was born. there was the communist collapse. But my parents grew up in communism, and they’ve told me stories.
And it’s like, you can’t even imagine what this looks like, feels like. just because, you know, being in the US, it’s just we’re so privileged. we don’t we have our freedom. And that’s the greatest gift. But what happens outside of the US is a whole nother story. Oh, my gosh, wow. Yeah.
Yeah, my reason to write my book is not to bring the sad news to the prosperous country. but to, to share the so that people have a better perspective on life.
that they know what’s going on around the world. that they understand when people come to the country. they are not coming from the privileged place, they come from a broken place.
right. There’s a lot of lessons in that. I mean, on one side, it’s sad to think about. but at the same token, it’s like, here. you’re able to share the story and shed light on like.
Hey, here’s what’s really happening kind of around around the world. And so, after you’re after college. were you still staying in Cambodia? Or did you when did you come to the US? Oh, it
takes a while before I can redo us when they the people from the city. I end up in a forced labour camp and the big cam. I am in the camp that was only single men and women. That mean, we are the strongest force.
And that means they can force us to work extremely hard. So we were forced to work in the right for you 16 hours a day. in the intense sun, in the heat seven days a week. and we will give you very little food to eat, very low time to sleep and no time to rise.
So with that, many of us become very sick. Me too. I became sick. So I was very sick and almost did not make it. I was sent to an infirmary that’s waiting for time to die. Because infirmary, there is no doctors alerts or medication to help us to get better.
But anyway, I with my strong faith, I pray and I asked God to help me. And I was fortunate to be able to sneak out from the infirmary. and found myself found a job and in the kitchen. my own my own effort, my God make all that arrangement. I am getting a job in the kitchen from the rice field, to the infirmary.
And I will put the kitchen working in a kitchen compared to working in the rice field. It just my one day, I was in the shade, not in the heat. I woke long last hour, and I had more access to food. So that’s the big deal.
That is a big deal. And then this were you in your early 20s during this time?
Yeah, yeah. So I gradually recover my health. But not too long, when they saw me Look better Feel better. They call me up from the kitchen. and they throw me back in the rice field again.
So I endure for long years. To answer your question, how when did I come to United States? Not yet? Not yet. I had to endure all those manage all those obstacles that come my way. So after four years of working in the heat. and the cam got moved. and they moved to the jungle, moved us to the jungle.
and I realised that Oh, no, I still want to go and find my family. My family is on the front of my mind. On top of everything, I only think about how I get back home. But when I saw the direction they move out to the jungle. I made the claim I might have risked my life for this time.
So I then I make a decision to escape. And I get to three of my friends who escaped with me and they say yes. they will go with me. So that was answering my prayer right there. because I was so frail and sick and all that. And with my friend, I have some support. Escape. We made it out.
Oh my gosh. So you were able to make it out of the camp? Yeah
It’s a very dangerous activity, but we had to do it.
Right. And I mean, like, how did you even get out of there? Like I, because you were in the jungle at that point. You said you had gotten moved. For me, I will tell you. So if I see a snake, I will die. Like your strength is so empowering.
And I like I’m just listening to this and full gratitude and appreciation for you and just in awe of like. what you went through in your strength. because I’m just like, I can’t even process anything that you’re saying.
Because it just feels like, it feels like a movie. but it’s real life that happened to you. So I’m just here like, just taking it all in and just really in awe of your strength. and you’re in your face, too. So I thank you for that.
Thank you. Yes, I’m afraid of snake also. Even though that snake I wouldn’t go near anything. look like snake I will go stay far from it.
That way. So when you mentioned jungle, I was like, Oh, God, that is something that I just cannot.
I just cannot imagine that we got out from there. It seemed like a nightmare for us. And we wake up in the morning and realise it’s a nightmare. But it was not a nightmare. It’s real life. But we did it. So after I escaped from the jungle, I found my way to my hometown.
And when I get to my home is supposed to be home there. There’s no home, my home was destroyed. And my family was not around at home. I tracked down I asked around and I found my family. I reunited with my family. And they moved to me with good food poisoning about good food, organic food from the farm.
I enjoy it. And I thought to myself, I’d rather be bad than being skinny and sick. And I enjoy food and nurture myself by going home. It took me more than a year to get back to almost my normal self again. When I got back to my good health, my country was still chaotic.
They’re pretty much everything was destroyed. And real fear for our life. And my mom have an idea that I need to get out from the country. because I was still a single young woman and I’m a prime prospect. So my mom pushed me out.
I was crying my I was bawling and just like, Oh no, I have been dreaming of this moment to live together. As a family one night, I had to go. But this time it for the sake of my family, I need to escape one more time. this time escape out of Cambodia. there is no way to buy the aeroplane ticket and fly out.
There’s nothing like that. At that time. Everything was put on like destroy. And I crossed the border, the heavy link landmine that border that separate Thailand and Cambodia. But somebody had to do it. I went across that border.
Thank goodness, God was protecting me. I went to the border to the Thailand side and found a refugee camp. that was established by United Nation just recently. So I found that claim. I register myself. So it caught my relative in the United States.
And I found him and he sponsored me to come that’s how I got out from Cambodia. It took more than a year between getting into the cam waiting for the processing. and everything to get to the United States. But I’m here I’m so grateful.
So happy to have you here and of all places your sunny, beautiful Florida.
Yeah, yeah, I did not start out in Florida.
That’s okay. Well, now you’re in Florida, but even anywhere in the US. I mean, like waiting over a year for processing. And all of us are like I’m just so blown away by your story. And like I said, your strength in your faith.
Because you can tell that’s exactly what got you through all of that. Like your faith really kept you strong throughout that entire experience. And it wasn’t an easy experience.
I mean, these were not days, not even months. These were years that you’ve had to endure these types of obstacles. and like just thank God that you were able to come here and get away from
Yeah, yeah, I live it’s full of obstacle. If we have a purpose, we have a direction where we want to go. we will make it through, we will now get in, okay. by me doing the hardest time, in the fourth labour camp.
what kept me going was just imagine, one of these day I will be back home with my family. with my loving mother and my beautiful brothers. So I can’t imagine the day that will come. So if you have a purpose that is bigger than yourself. you will make it through any obstacle.
Absolutely. And when you came here to the US, what were some of the first things that you did? Because essentially, you came here and you’re just rebuilding everything. your whole life from scratch and a different world.
building is the right word. Yes, rebuilding my new life. everything from the language from the culture, from the climate, everything. but nothing compare to four years in captivity. working in the right for you under the intense.
Yeah, I started out by learning the English, when to the adult education. ESL, the language, learning the language, and then I attend the GED class. because I like I have nothing to prove. If I want, I still want to pursue the higher education. But if I don’t have anything to prove, I cannot do it.
So I had to pull myself, take the GED class and then take the exam. And thank goodness, my brain is still working. I, at one point, I thought that I have amnesia. I cannot think of anything, I cannot remember. A lot of my good friends from high school.
From colleagues, nothing, my mind went blank. I was shocked. Like my memory was gone for a while. But when I tried to take my GED class and take the exam it combined slowly. I was able to pass the exam, and I was able to find a job. Immediately when I first arrived, I was looking for a job.
Nobody hired me because I didn’t speak English. And I was so disappointed at the beginning. But it gave me a few months to learn the English. and then have the opportunity to take GED test.
And now I’m ready. When I look for a job again. It was a referral from a friend and I got a job. When I got the job. I was able to produce the whole college and pay my own way through college.
Wow. Oh my goodness. Uh, you? You’re amazing. So you went in, got your GED. took your exams and then you went to college? You put yourself through college?
Yeah, it took me one year to start a college.
That’s amazing. Sarah, that’s amazing.
What did you major in I major in mathematics?
That is my worst subject that I
that’s a subject that saved my life.
Think that’s amazing. I’m so bad with mathematics. I am so like, I can’t you know, it’s algebra is like for me like this. I can’t.
if your life depended on it, you will make it
that yes, that Yes.
For me, if I major in anything else, it requires a lot of reading. and I cannot do it. Math is all about numbers and formula and solving problem and I’m good at it.
That’s amazing. That’s a good way to put it actually. Because it’s all numbers. So you don’t have to worry about much when it comes to that. Oh my god. I’m the opposite. My brain is completely opposite.
I look at numbers and I’m like, huh Thank you. You know, that’s Oh my gosh, that’s wonderful, sir. So after you finish the mathematics, your college career, what was next for you
my family cross over to Thailand. And it was wonderful new until until I tried to sponsor them but nothing happened. Years went by nothing happened. And I found out that my family was getting into the camp that they already closed down.
They are no longer So, the newcomers, so that mean, I’m not an obstacle. I cannot do the paperwork. Legally, I cannot sponsor them to the United States. So that’s another problem because saw, they live in, in limbo. in hiding, they had to hide themselves.
Because when the Thai soldier was looking for any illegal resident. my family had to go into the hole in the ground, to hide themselves. So I was so fearful. And I go through that, and I involve a lot of people. I asked the senator, the congressman. and community to help me write a letter, write petition and everything.
So to make a long story short, I found out that I need to become a US citizen. in order for me to sponsor them to come as an immigrant. So that’s what I did, I had to wait five years. and then start the process of becoming a US citizen. And then I do the paperwork.
I was able to bring them over, it took five years. five years process, usually it should not take more than a year. but in this case, five years, five years. But at the same time, I was trying to complete my college degree. And it was really intense.
They give us so much assignment and everything before the graduation. And at the same time, my family meet me and all that it just really intense. I realised, wow, why do they push me so much to do how to do it. but finally, I was able to graduate.
And then my family also was accepted, to come to United State. and everything paid off. After I graduate, I found myself a job in a corporation. that was really, really rewarding to realise that your my effort paid off.
That’s amazing, sir, oh, my gosh, and then your family was able to come,
my family was able to come my goal. My goal is to grab your aid before they come because I know once they come. there will be a lot of work for me to do to put them through all everything. the processing and a lot of work. So I need to complete my education before they arrive. So at the end,
it’s amazing, sir, then they got to come here. Oh, my God. That’s, that’s beautiful. I’m so happy that it came full circle. I know. It took some time. But they made it which is incredible.
Yeah, that’s the most enjoyable time that we got to do a second reunion.
That’s amazing, Sarah. Oh, my goodness. I absolutely love that. I absolutely love that. throughout your entire experience there. I’m sure there’s a lot of lessons that you learned.
But what was your most important lesson. out of all the obstacles that you faced. that you feel like you’ve you’ve learned or want to help others understand
the most important lesson there’s of several most important start with, with play. I’m grateful. I’m grateful that I came through every obstacle. I overcame, keep me moving from one step to the next step. It maybe God had planned for me this way. even though my journey was really rough, very curvy, and rocking.
But I made it through. And it gave me joy. How do you think about your life. sometimes people become resentful, anger, bitter. That’s not the way to help us to be happy.
If we are resentful, we are not going to find happiness. We have to be grateful that we’ve gone through. Although the journey is round one, you might even that’s how I looked at.
Amazing. So well. It’s a key. It’s a key thing because a lot of the time what happens is anybody who would have gone through your circumstances. has every right to fall into like the victim mentality and say. Oh my God, how could this happen to me?
Oh my god, you know, and go and be very mad and like you said, resentful. and the beautiful thing about you. I’m in such admiration of your strength and your faith. because you didn’t do that you continue to move forward.
and you still praise God throughout that process. you still followed your face throughout it all and look at the end result. Everything ended up working out as hard as it was right. But yeah, or you know, standing tall and trying To find the happiness and you know all of it,
yeah, another way that I look at it is this the hardest. the road, the hardest the journey, the more satisfaction you feel after you finish it. after you complete it till you get a sense of satisfaction that you handle the
100% I love that so thank you so much for for sharing that. I love that. I absolutely love that.
And I’m not a less than that. I like to share with many of my audience that it’s all into perspective. When you look at the glass, did you see it half full or half empty?
If you see it half full, you are optimistic you know that you already have half. you only need to add just another half so when you look at that way. you see the future it will be better.
You expect to be better. There is acronym for how pipe others positively and region that’s what I’m doing. I have other positively enraged and ration that your future will be better.
What Would Sara’s Older Self tell Her Younger Self
I love that Sarah help others positively vision hope. Wow. That’s beautiful. Love that, sir. Oh my gosh. I mean, this is one of my favourite questions that I would love to hear what you have to say on this one.But knowing what you know now, and based on your life experience, what would your older self tell you yourself based on what you know now,
not to worry too much. When I was younger when my family got calm in Thailand with unregistered status. I worry, I worry. And I imagine that if they found my family. if they weed them, if they will take them into the jail.
Worry Borivali did not hurt me at all. Yes, I love them. I did not want them to suffer. But I just worry too much. I have a nightmare at my dream. Bad dream and my. So that’s one advice. Not to worry too much.
In knew mentioned, too, that you wrote a book about this. So tell us a little bit about the book and where we can find it.
Yes, I wrote the book. And the title is how I survived the killing fields. a story of how love and determination is about my journey. And it’s available on my website. Sarah m.com It’s my first name sai a and last name. I m.com
That’s amazing. Sarah, my gosh. That anyone who has been listening I’m sure they’re gonna be interested in that. So I’m glad that you that you mentioned that thank you so much. And you know in your world what’s coming up next in like the next few months. what’s new in your worlds or the next few months?
Oh, I lau lau the Impaler some gathering, it’s open up. I got an invitation to do this. And that. So one of my favourite thing to do is to teach at a group at the church. I will be teaching the lesson about finding peace, how to find peace.
And another event that I’m planning with my co host is the retreat by the version of you. And mean when 2023 It’s the retreat for a woman in St. Petersburg, Florida in April.
I love that. Oh my gosh, are those sounds so amazing. My goodness, my goodness. And like the work that you’re doing now. I’m so inspired by you with like your journey. your strength, your faith, everything.
Seriously, you You are absolutely amazing. And I just want to thank you so much for sharing everything here with us. And I’m sure people are gonna want to reach you somehow, sir. So you mentioned your book, your website, the best way to reach you? What are some ways that people can can reach out to you?
Yeah, website is the best place where you can reach me and I’m also very active on LinkedIn. We just you they can find me on LinkedIn. it just Sarah M. speaker, author, you will find me there. And I’m also on Facebook as well.
You’re wonderful. Sarah, I want to thank you again so much. You are amazing. I’m just so grateful for you and your story and how you’re changing the world. one person at a time through your story and piece and helping them find who they are. So thank you so much for that and thank you for today.
Thank you for having me today. Pamela
so that’s it for today’s episode of underdog. catch us next week, always dropping on Thursdays. And remember, if you’re interested in real estate or want to learn how to create more money and magic in your life. check out meet with pamela.com and let’s chat sending you so so much love
Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my incredible interview with Sara Im. If you found this story worth your time and made changes in your life, we’d love to hear from you! Subscribe and leave a review. The Underdog Podcast host is none other than Pamela Bardhi. She’s rocking the Real Estate Realm and has dedicated her life as a Life Coach. She is also Forbes Real Estate Council. To know more about Pam, check out the following:
If you’re interested in elevating your life 10x, and owning your power, Pamela invites you to join her for a 15-minute call to set your goals straight and get clarity. Start building your game plan now: meetwithpamela.com