Who I Am: Pim Bhut, 49 

Housecleaner, humanitarian

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Early before Christmas — late last year — we decided to take children back home [to Cambodia] for the first time. … One day, someone I work for hand me an article from the magazine from Chapel Hill, N.C., about water filters that they make in Cambodia. And she said, 'Read this.' So I read that and it was just like, 'Boom. Here. That's what I'm going to do.' So I started to tell people, 'I'm going home in January, so I would love to raise money to buy the water filters to have them have water — clean water.'

I raised over $2,000 in about three weeks. … Then, January comes and we took our vacation, and I talked to the lady in the article and, 'This is what I want to do. Will you please help me get 300 filters ready for me when I get there?'

First people were skeptical that, 'I don't want to receive this,' because they thought it was some kind of politics, and my father had told them, 'No, this is from my daughter. There is nothing related to politics or Christian, or nothing. It's just from my daughter.' People started to believe that, so they just come forward and receive the filter.

They use water from the well water, or water from the pond or river, or rainwater that they collected from their pots. The water was bad. It was thick, like milk, and they drink from that. I know that I used to drink that water, too. The illness from diarrhea, fever — a lot of diseases comes from that water.

My family? I have two brothers and two sisters, my parents, and I have 27 nieces and nephews. I left [Cambodia] when I was 14 years old, in the war. At the time, in 1974, '75, Communists took over the country and they separate the young children from their parents. So, I'm the last one that left the village from my parents because I just don't think that I should leave my parents. But I couldn't win, so I left home anyway. So I left home in 1976, and I never went back home again until I immigrated to America, then I went back the first time in 1996.

My father was arrested six months after I left home because they accused him of doing something politically against Communists. … After I left home, I got a chance to run back home for a couple of hours,and one of my brothers told me, 'I saw you, but I don't know who you were.' Next day, our mother told him, 'That was your sister.' And he told me that story a couple of weeks ago. I have it on my recording tape.

It was a good experience for my [two] children. Told them the story of how I grew up and how the wars and all that stuff. They don't learn from what I told them, but when we took them to see it, in two weeks — 10 days — they learn more than what I told them in years.

There was always bombing, and we always stayed close to the shelter under the grounds every night. We never got a chance to sleep in our own homes. We always sleep outside the home, under the ground. All I remember from 1970 to 1976, all I remember is always run away from bullets. S

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