From Bitterness to Joy!


Mrs. Sandra Tan Vouch Hong re-ceived lit-tle in the way of early education, became a refugee, married and had three children before divorcing, but remains cheerful and joyful. Born in April 1960 in Kien Svay, Kandal Province, she attended the Korky Primary School for just four years before the civil war began in 1970 when she with her family were forced to leave their home for a distant province. 

Then in April 1975, just three days be-fore Pol Pot took over the country, San-dra left her new home in Pailin, and with her uncle and his family of 13, fled to a refugee camp in Thailand.  There they stayed for about 10 months. Sandra and her uncle were adopted by an older woman, whom she called Grandma.  Grandma grew bean sprouts and made papaya salad, which Sandra sold in the camp to survive. But it was during her time in the camp that she came to know about Christ as her Savior. She met with a group of Cambodians for a weekly Bible study. Then she made a commitment and was baptized. In October 1975, Sandra and her family of 13 members were sponsored by two churches to settle in the Washington state area of the USA. There Sandra went into senior high school, not knowing a word of English. This made school difficult, but she also juggled school and working two or three part-time jobs at a time. Despite this, she graduated from high school in 1978, going on to study dental nursing at college on a scholarship. She graduated with certificate of dental nursing, hoping to go on to study medicine or dentistry, but without success there.

Around this time she realized that there were many Cambodian refugees in need of help. She reflected on her refugee camp experience, when she was very sick and almost lost her life due to the lack of medical care, and accepted it as being part of God’s plan for her to be a nurse rather than a doctor.
It was while studying at the Washington dental school that Sandra met her fu-ture husband, a Malaysian dentist, and they married in 1981. He earned a post-graduate dental degree and Master of Public Health at Washington University in 1979. They moved back to Singapore in May 1985, where he had a scholarship to pursue a Ph.D. in public health. Together they had three children, two boys and a girl, but her husband took a mistress, a young Filipino maid, which brought the marriage to an end and she was divorced in 2007.

Says Sandra, “It was a very difficult time for me during my di-vorce filing. But God is great, seeming to make plans for me even before the divorce. I purchased a four-room flat for Au-gustin, my oldest son, to stay as his father had chased him out; he chased my mum and nephew out as well. The court ordered us to have joint custody of the two younger children and my ex-husband was not happy, so he smuggled them to Australia, and left Allister, who was only 13, in a school in Perth. He and Amadea went to Sydney. I spent two days and nights in a police station looking for my children. 

The police told me ‘You can bring them back to Singapore but their father will go to jail, because he kidnapped them.’ I prayed. The Lord spoke to me, saying, ‘Forgive and forget!’ and after three months, my ex-husband and Amadea returned to Singapore, although he still prevented the two children from contacting or seeing me. But in 2010 Amadea took up studies in veterinary school in Perth: he paid her fees, and I helped with her allowance. Allister began a pharmacy degree in 2013, but his father refused to pay his school fees and allow-ance, then stopped paying for Amadea. I was devastated, as the children had the study opportunities, but could not afford the fees for the two to study overseas.

I prayed and prayed, and the Lord answered my prayers. My ex-husband agreed to a loan to pay for Amadea, but then stopped paying when she had one more year left. Year by year, I managed to support Allister through four years of school fees from my full-time work and earned extra money from taking care of four Cambodian school children who came to study in Singapore. And he finally graduated with a pharmacist degree. For Amadea’s final year, I paid by taking bank loans. I thank God for these three lovely children.”

Now the two older children are married and Sandra is work-ing in the National University Hospital, Singapore, where she is a senior dental nurse.

And despite the difficulties she has encountered, she thanks the Lord for His blessing upon her life and children. These days she helps Cambodian families who come to Singapore find appropriate doctors or hospitals for treatment. She has a house to offer casual accommodation, whenever room is available and needed. As she plans for retirement, she also has plans to do more mission work.

She has met and made many friends with many doctors, nurs-es and patients from Singapore, Brunei, and Indonesia, where she has also made many Cambodian friends. In her church, Sandra is very involved with raising sponsorships.


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