Mission to Cambodia 2012
from Amelia Brown
Today our group split up and did different things. Most of the group helped with nursing check offs at the hospital. Once a year the nurses are required to take an oral exam where they must produce the steps to basic procedures used in the hospital. The goal is to explain the steps in English. Our group was therefore quite useful in administering the check offs. Apparently the check offs were largely a success since most people passed! These nurses left the hospital today feeling relieved and reassured in their skills.
Cameray and I went on HIV home visits today. We accompanied a social worker, Chhavelith, to the countryside to check on HIV families that are waiting to move into new homes built by habitat for humanity. The first couple we visited lived in a one room hut made from wooden posts with tarps as the roof and walls. The woman not only has the HIV virus, but also just finished treatment for TB. The tarp serving as the ceiling had a hole in it and was leaking. Since it is the rainy season in Cambodia, this couple was consistently wet. They were still extremely cheerful because they are expecting to have a house built for them in a couple of months. Cameray and I decided that we wanted to get this couple a tarp so they could be dry their last few months living there. After we visited two more HIV families in this village, we rode 45 minutes back to the city. Once we got back, we went to the market and bought a tarp for the first couple we met. We assumed the couple wouldn't receive the tarp for a few days, whenever Chhavelith went back for another visit. Chhavelith called the couple and told them we bought the tarp. They were ecstatic and said they'd ride a bike in to pick it up today.
After lunch, we went on another visit to a family who lived in the slums of Phnom Penh. I thought that conditions in the countryside were bad enough, but this was much worse. My heart has never felt so heavy as it did while walking through the slums to meet this family. So many people are living in complete filth, on mounds and mounds of trash. Whole families share tiny rooms with no adequate roof or walls, no electricity, and no clean water. There is no escape from the heat , bugs, or stench. These conditions are not visible from the streets, so I was taken back that this is what existed behind the buildings we've driven by for 2 weeks now. I felt a multitude of emotions as I experienced this unfiltered reality. I felt shocked, sad, guilty, helpless, and even angry. It's incredibly difficult to see such suffering and know that there is no way that I can make it all disappear for these people. I left there with a whole new level of appreciation for my life and the opportunities available to me in the United States. We can all read about extreme poverty, look at pictures, or see it on tv, but until I saw it with my own two eyes, I did not even have the slightest concept. I view my life completely different now. I know that I will never forget this day. Although this was the most heart wrenching sight I've ever seen, if this suffering has to exist in the world, I'm grateful I am aware of it. Only then can I ever begin to make a difference, no matter how small.
When we got back to the hospital to gather our things to leave, the man from the village we visited in the morning was there waiting to collect the tarp. He had ridden his bike almost two hours into the city and was so happy when we gave him the tarp. His smile and thankfulness immediately lifted my spirits. It was apparent that this tarp was a huge deal in their lives. Now they will be dry for the remainder of the time they live in their hut. This experience reminded me of why I came on this trip. Of course I can't completely change the world or help everyone in need that I see. I can, however, make a difference in someone's life. Something as simple as a tarp can have a huge impact. If nothing else, providing that one couple with a dry place to sleep, and maybe some hope in their harsh world makes my journey to cambodia completely worth it.