A Plea for Help

Sihanouk HospitalFriends, family, and colleagues,
Those of you who have kept up with this blog know that our experiences here at Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE (SHCH) have been invaluable. From day one, we were welcomed with open arms and unbelievably warm hearts. The nurses and staff here have given us more experiences and love than we could have dreamed. We had the privilege of being the recipients of these generous hearts for three weeks, but the patients that depend on SHCH for medical and nursing care get that love every day.
It is with great sadness that we report that after 15 years of serving Cambodia’s poor, Sihanouk Hospital is facing a significant financial crisis. Losing some of its greatest benefactors to the tsunami and earthquakes in Japan, SHCH is at a crossroads. They give hope to the people of Cambodia who are unable to pay for needed medical care. The employees and staff that have become our friends and extended family give 100% of themselves to this organization every day because they believe in what they do. They will soon be out of work. The nursing and pharmacy students who have been lucky enough to visit over the years have been witness to the unbelievable quality of care given by SHCH’s health care team. The experiences they’ve had have changed and will continue to change their lives forever, but if the hospital closes, new classes and generations of Belmont students will never have the chance.
We are sending out a plea to any and all people who have benefited from Belmont’s Cambodia mission, be it former students, family members who have seen what an impact this experience has had on your loved ones, or blog readers who are moved by what you read here. We know how important SHCH has been to this country and just cannot stand to see it disappear. We truly believe that God sent us here for a reason, and this is it. This is how we can give back to Cambodia what it has given to us. Together, we can save the hospital! In order to keep the hospital at full capacity, we are setting a fundraising goal of $200,000 – an amount that, in the grand scheme of things, is a small price to pay for all the good things done here, and an amount that with God’s help can be exceeded. If we know just 200 people that could give $1000 a piece, we can save the hospital and the community of hope built by SHCH.
We reach out to you – those we know care about the people of Cambodia – to rise to the occasion! Please find it in your hearts to donate – even the smallest amount brings us that much closer to our goal. Also, share this page with your friends and family by copying this message to your Facebook page!
Follow this link to donate: https://www.hopeww.org/NetCommunity/SSLPage.aspx?pid=749
(Please be sure to include “Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE – Belmont University” in the comment box under “Additional Information”)
Never-ending thanks for the love and support you have given us!
The 2011 Belmont Cambodia Mission Team

Day 11

May 25th, Friday
Today I woke up at 5 in the morning to be on the bus by 6am. We had another bumpy bus ride heading back towards the city. We stopped at Women’s Development Center in Stung Treng. There was a kindergarten nearby that we visited there, where the kids there are the first of their generation to get an education. Most of the people in that village don’t speak Khmer; instead they speak Lao. At the Women’s Development Center, we saw how they produced raw silk into beautiful silk clothing. I thought it was cool to see the color of the cocoons be yellow because I’ve only seen them white. Then we saw how they dyed it and how they made cloth out of the silk threads. Afterwards, we ate lunch there and then arrived at our new hotel, the Golden River Hotel.
In the afternoon, we went to see a nursing school. It was a big one but it was kind of empty because the students had exams and so class did not start until the following week. I thought it was cool that they can provide housing for up to 100 students for free (because some of the students come from far away). But they have about 400 students.
Later, as we were looking for a place to eat dinner, we made a pit stop to take pictures of the setting sun over the Mekong River. It was quite a beautiful sight. It was a definitely a great way to end the night.
Pamela Wong
PharmD Candidate 2013


BoatOn Saturday the group woke up early and made a short but interesting drive from Stung Treng to Kratie. There we witnessed a true rarity, freshwater dolphin. In Cambodia these playful and enigmatic creatures number less than 100. A boat ride on the Mekong let us observe them upfront and in person. We then headed back to Phnom Penh, our Cambodian home away from home.
By the time we reached our destination we were physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted from the previous days, but, as we have recently become accustomed too, had little time to rest. In this case we were all very glad for this as we were treated to an amazing home cooked meal from Ohmpea, Susan Taplin’s driver and dear friend. Not only were we provided with various dishes including chicken, fish, noodles, but we heard great stories and singing from Ohmpea himself. It was refreshing to see the bond Susan and Ohmpea had with each other, a true friendship that neither time nor distance could hinder; a friendship that should be an example to all of us.

boat_rd_sm.jpgDaniel Stirling (PharmD. Candidate 2013)

You have entered the Twilight Zone Beyond this world strange things are known

We shall call this entry: the bus drive through the Twilight Zone!
Made it to Ratanakiri, finally. Ms. Taplin told us it was only going to be a 9 hour drive, well twelve hours later we climbed off of the bus, bones aching and sore butts! 
We should go back to the beginning of the day first… We climb on the bus at the crack of dawn to venture on this grand trip across the rugged roads of Cambodia.  When everyone had finally piled on the bus we set off.  Taplin had been informed that the roads were in decent enough to travel, so there should have been no problem, right?!  Wrong…
We found ourselves at the mercy of the bus driver for the entire trip.  The seats in the back of the bus are bigger, so – having not sat back there before, I decided it would probably be best to sit back there since it was going to be such a long drive… BIG MISTAKE!  The back of the bus was like riding on that amusement park ride that you first think is awesome but soon realize if you stay back there much longer you might puke! There were times when my butt came at least 6 inches (if not more) off of the seat!  Guess that is what I get for trying to take over the “good” seats!
Back to the bus driver… People in Cambodia drive like they are all in the Indi- 500, so when our bus driver was driving abnormally slow and other buses were passing us, some of the impatiences (myself included considering my insides felt like jello) on the bus started asking what was up.  Pip (the awesomely adorable Cambodian we took with us as our ad lib tour guide/haggle genius and thank God we took her, she was so necessary) in turn started asking the bus driver why he was going so slow.  Every time someone said something to him he would slow down until finally we were crawling along at about 30-40 mph.  So then the pressure was really laid on him and he finally snapped! It was like something out of the twilight zone – he would speed up, slow down, speed up… when he finally snapped, he revved the bus so hard I thought I was going to fly into Michael’s lap! Here we are, flying over this dirt road with so many pot holes it looked like Swiss cheese, getting our brains sloshes around and going grey from fear!  The bridges were the most terrifying part, wooden, old, could break at any moment… Yep, friends and family, 12 hours, 9 of which were sure madness and we all survived!  But the best part of the drive has yet to be discussed… Let’s just say that finding ways to use the bathroom on a road through the jungle in the middle of no where can be quite the bonding experience and I will never complain about a gas station bathroom in the States again after seeing what the Kehmer people live with daily!  I have so much respect for their ability to balance.
Blair and I got settled into our room at the Cambodia resort, which literally looked like a secluded jungle paridise, and fell out on the beds from exhaustion.  Well, unbeknownst to us, we were not alone.  There was a tenant lying in wait for Blair in the bathroom.  Oswald, a   3 1/2 inch roach that was as wide as a small rodent, crawled out to tell her that she was in an occupied room and Blair started screaming!  Oswald had not expected such a unwelcoming reaction and clung to the basket that held the soap in an effort to make himself invisible.  Blair was freaking out, I went into the bathroom, worked myself up, – “you’re hardcore, Candice, you can do this.  No roach is going to defeat you, ect.” – grabbed the basket, and carried it into the hallway.  Well, Oswald didn’t appreciate it, he took off running full speed ahead at Blair and I, that is when the pandamonia set in.  I was screaming, Blair was screaming, had Oswald’s mouth been bigger he would have been screaming! We were all running around like maniacs and in all of the chaos I slammed the door in Blairs face trying to save myself!  I don’t believe in karma, but if I did, I would say I fell victim to it!  Oswald took off under the door, right back into our room, charging like a freight train directly towards my feet!  Oswald escaped that night, but he got his come-up-it’s, that’s another story.
Building relationships, experiencing events that will change you forever, finding pieces of yourself you had no idea existed, and falling in love with a foreign land and people – that is what Cambodia is about!
I miss my boys, the food, and language!
Sorry this post is so late, it was meant for Wed May 25.
“Two roads diverged in a wood and I – I took the one less traveled by.” – Robert Frost
Candice Rose – Graduate Nurse, Class of 2011

Day #7: S-21 (PharmD Perspectives)

“Same same, but different” is a common saying for English speaking people in Cambodia. That is, the English word “same” sounds very similar to the Cambodia word for “different”. Many t-shirts have thus been produced for Americans, such as myself, to help remind ourselves how hard it can be to communicate ideas to other people. Today, after a 7 hour bus ride back into the city, our group went to a place known a “S-21”. It used to be a high school, but during the last regime was converted into a torture prison and death camp. Over 25,000 prisoners were recorded to have entered this prison. Less than 30 years later, only 12 survivors are known. It is very hard for me to convey the emotions and history behind this prison. No person could accurately convey the emotions that you feel when walking through this place of death. I have posted pictures taken by both Candice Rose and myself to convey with images what I cannot in words. I have also added some more inspiring pictures from other days (besides this one) as well to lighten the mood.
Dan Myslakowski (PharmD Candidate, class of 2013)

Falling in Love with Cambodia

Angkor Wat SunriseThis morning started off with something we’d been looking forward to the minute we researched this trip: visiting Angkor Wat. After the beautiful sunset we had witnessed the evening before, we knew seeing the sun rise over Angkor Wat was an absolute must. Niron suggested we leave for Angkor Wat around 4:45 a.m. in order to arrive before the sunrise. After our long trip and the many hours spent stimulating the Khmer economy at the Siem Reap Night Market, this task was a bit harder than expected. We ended up arriving just in time to see the sun cresting over the temple. This magnificence can only be experienced and never accurately described by text or photo.
Afterward, we explored the temples of Angkor. I was astounded by the beauty and majesty of Angkor Wat. I can hardly believe that nearly 3,000 years ago, the Khmer people moved thousands of enormous stone blocks—which weigh several tons each and originate from the mountains—to create the largest religious structure in the world. As we moved through Angkor Wat, intricate carvings lined nearly every inch of the structure. My favorites were the beautifully detailed aspara dancers, representing an ancient form of dance that is characteristic to Cambodia.
Mini Independence_MonumentThe structures themselves weren’t the only notable sights of Angkor, elephants transported travelers between temples. On the road, there was a band of monkeys that haggled visitors for food. Musicians, whose families were harmed by the land mines planted by the Khmer Rouge, played beautiful traditional Khmer music on instruments you will never see in America. Several people were so inspired by the music that they bought drums and flutes to entertain us. At the entrance of each temple, masses of children approached us—some without shoes—pleading us to buy their souvenirs. At least three children would follow each of us, pulling out their different wares and shouting out the prices. It was heartbreaking being unable to buy something from every child, especially knowing that they spend the majority of their days helping to make a living for their families. It reinforced the need for the work that we, and the beautiful people at Hope Hospital, are doing.
A couple of us had the opportunity to visit the Cambodian Cultural Center after visiting the temples. We took Niron’s personal moto, with the warnings against them ringing heavily in my ears. My blood pressure hit new peaks during those ten long minutes. It was definitely an experience I’m glad to have had, but would prefer to avoid in the future. When finally arrived, we found out that Niron had never been inside despite his multiple visits to Siem Reap. We offered to buy his ticket since we had developed such a close bond with him throughout this excursion. The Cultural Center was awesome! It’s how I would imagine an amusement park, Cambodian style. It had miniature displays of important scenes in ancient Cambodian history, such as the construction of Angkor Wat. There was another exhibition that depicted key peoples and time periods throughout Cambodian history, in chronological order. Another phenomenal attraction was a Cambodian-Chinese comedy and acrobatics show. At one point in the show, there were ten performers balanced on one. My favorite attraction was the miniature models of some of Cambodia’s most revered buildings. Needless to say, I mock ‘Godzilla’d’ a couple in humorous photographs.
Acrobatics ShowAfterward, we headed out for Koulen Restaurant – oh my goodness. I would have to say that this was my absolute favorite place to eat thus far. The restaurant is an enormous Cambodian buffet, featuring a wide variety of foods, including freshly made noodle soup and fried bananas. It was wonderful to taste the flavors I’ve been familiar with my entire life, and then some. What came next pulled the night together—an Aspara dance performance. Each dance told a story of love, conflict, or the simple joys of everyday living all using graceful and deliberate movements. I have seen these dances on television, but that night revealed those videos never did the actual performance justice. I could see everyone at our table was enthralled, despite being up for over fourteen hours.
I love being so completely immersed in my culture, learning many things I’d never known. I’ve come to fall even more in love with Cambodia. They are a beautiful people, each Cambodian I’ve met has been kind and generous with a warm heart.

Don’t go chasin’ waterfalls!!

Cambodia Day.. I don’t even know anymore:
Our adventure into Ratakaniri was interesting to say the least.. We had to travel for nearly 12 hours by bus through the Cambodian jungle to get to our destination.  We took a full bus over bridges made of nothing more than large, uneven sticks over bodies of water of which are probably infested with who-knows-what.  It was a bit nerve-racking, but completely worth it in the end.  
Our hotel here has full electricity and air conditioning. They have a pool and a spa, and a remarkably good restaurant.  I feel like since we arrived, we have been on vacation! 
During our day here in Ratakaniri, we first went to the waterfalls. The first one was great; we had to cross a wooden, swinging bridge (the kind you see in the movies that breaks at one end) to get to the location of the waterfall, it was really beautiful and exciting. We got to swim in the waterfall, and the water felt oh-so-good!! Abby got some great pictures of all of us swimming since she didn’t bring any clothes to swim in.  Next we went to another waterfall, but this one was equipped with elephant rides through the jungle (on unmarked terrain, without a pathway) and some really cool native tribal outfits we got to play dress-up in. We got some pretty cool pictures.  Next, we went shopping briefly before heading to swim in a lake in a crater (which is either the crater of a volcano, or a crater made by a meteor.. It’s up for debate). Its really fun to be in a place that is so un-touched by westernized society. The locals there would come up and try to speak english to us.. And you could tell that it was very basic conversation skills that they have learned. The essential “hello, my name is… Whats your name? How are you?” etc. Pretty fascinating.  
Not excited to have to leave Ratakaniri tomorrow to begin the adventure back to Phnom Penh, but I’m excited to see what the trip back will have I store for us!
Diana Perricone

On to Siem Reap

Bat TukAn early morning rise took us on a bus ride to Siem Reap. We are accompanied by Niron and Wataana, fellow members of Phnom Penh Church of Christ, who served as our de facto tour guides on the trip.
Moving out of the bustle that is Phnom Penh allows me to take a breath and appreciate the full beauty of the Cambodian countryside. The palm trees sway gently in the flatland with glistening lakes and rivers dispersed between. This embodies the peacefulness of an earlier Cambodia, juxtaposed to the beautiful chaos of the capital city. We then stop for a quick snack of fried spiders, crickets, and other interesting culinary delights.
A few more hours on the bus lets us reflect back on the experience we have had so far. In a short amount of time we have traveled half way around the globe and become quickly immersed in a very different culture. But despite the differences, similarities are noticeable. We have more in common with the Cambodian people then we think and, for that matter, people all around the world. We truly are all one people, citizens of the world.
At our destination, a quick rest is followed by a trip to the Angkor temple area. I am very excited, seeing these amazing ancient structures first-hand. In my opinion, the Khmer civilization built temples that surpass, in just pure amazement, any other religious or monumental structures on the planet.
We are led on a light trek to Phnom Bakheng, a temple built in the late 9th to early 10th century. As we take in the beauty of the sunset falling behind the tree line in the forest beyond, one cannot help but find serenity. We are in a delightful amalgamation of different cultures and religions as Hinduism and Buddhism meet with tourists, pilgrims, and people of every walk of life, faith, and meaning. One cannot help but see a higher force prevailing that led to the thought and creation of this beauty and togetherness.


We close the night with an amazing dinner at what seems to be a living, breathing Apple commercial. This ultra-trendy dining spot is a stark contrast to the ancient splendor earlier in the day. I cannot help but marvel at how Cambodia with its deep rooted, and sometimes dark history, is finding its place in our modern world.
A full day, with many provoking thoughts, has me at rest. I hope my continuing adventure will be as blissful as today.
May peace and love be with you all.
Daniel Stirling (PharmD. Candidate 2013)

No Hesitation

wom_sm.jpgToday was one of my favorite days! I spent my morning in the surgical floor in the HOPE clinic. I have not felt as much love from people I do not even know ever before. I was baffled by the instant connection I felt after meeting the nurses, patients, and family members for the very first time.
Chak Riya was an instant friend. She is a young nurse who has very good English. She took me under her wing right away and taught me! I was starting IVs, drawing blood for labs, prepping patients for surgery and taking vitals with her. We talked a lot and bonded in the first few hours I was there.
I also met Rom Channy and Hun Chanse. Chanse says hi to the 2010 team-(he asked for Chelsea and Kim’s e-mail addresses. He has your pop account addresses). His smile was remarkable, I will never forget it!
Every day our team sits in a circle and we go over our “highs and lows” for the day. I was not surprised that many other team members shared the same “high” as I did. The people love before they think! We can all learn so much from the love that this culture shares. There is no hesitation. Their smiles are beautiful and captivating and unforgettable. I felt so loved this morning. As I looked out into the waiting area my eyes were instantly met with huge, warm smiles. I walked into a patient room to take vital signs and I was greeted by the entire family. The mother was holding a small child who kept inching closer and closer to me until he finally reached out and gave me a kiss on the cheek. He followed me around, touching me and shyly running away all morning.
I am so happy that I have this opportunity to be totally immersed in this culture! I cannot wait for more! We are going to Ratanakiri tomorrow for three days to see the beautiful rural country…can’t wait. Love you fam!
Suzanne Hutson – nursing

HIV Home Visit

Today was my day to go on a HIV home visit. We took a tuk tuk to the hospital and to our surprise the traffic was not all that bad. When we got to the hospital we met up with the social worker and walked over to his office. Everyone introduced theirselves as we stood waiting for our driver. While standing there he asked us to donate some money to buy some fish sauce to take with us to give to the families we were visiting. When they visit these families they are bringing pourage mix to them to eat.
The families we were visiting live at the dump site for the city. They all are living in small shacks and do not have much room at all. The first family we went to visit was a mother and her children. Her daughter was 7 months pregnant and was there while we were visiting. They both explained to us how they were doing and living. They were literally staying in a small room that had a tin roof and plastic on one side for a wall. She was very delighted to get the things that we brought her.
The second family we went to visit was a mother, her daughter, and her daughters baby. As we were walking through the living areas a little girl began to follow us around. She followed us to the family we were seeing and hung around us for a very long time. The small baby that was 6 months or so old was asleep in a hammock rocking back and forth. The little girl, who appeared to be no more than 1, began to pull a string to help the baby rock.
It was amazing to me how in such a horrible situation everyone there was like a small family. They all knew each other and seemed to watch out for everyone living there. I began to play with the toddler and eventually just picked her up. She was so precious. As we were beginning to leave I had to put her back down and let her go back to her family. When I set her down she reached up and tugged at me to pick her back up. It broke my heart to not pick her back up and get back in the car to go to the next family.
The last place we went to was not a certain family. We went into a common area for a bunch of different families. All of the children and some women gathered around us. Here we helped give lice treatments to all of them. They were so happy for us to be there and to be helping them out.
Its amazing to me how these people love you without no hesitation or second thought. They automatically love you from the second you meet them and become their friend. Sometimes I think that we could use a little bit of this in the states. These people have been through so much and after everything that has happened they still have the ability to love. This is just another example of how good God can be to anyone in any place. 🙂
Rachel Painter