Mission to Cambodia 2014
from Emily Patton, Nursing student
Today was a pretty relaxing day. We woke up early to check out of our rooms because we were leaving on a flight to Siem Reap and had to be checked out of our rooms by noon. We all took tuk tuks to church to celebrate the 22nd anniversary and the grand opening of the new facility for Phnom Penh Church of Christ! When we arrived, we saw the family from the service project had come to the service! It was so amazing to see them there, dressed up and ready to worship for the first time. They did a ceremonial ribbon cutting and everyone piled into the church, where traditional Khmer dancers did a beautiful dance as tribute. Cambodians will look for any reason to have a party which I think is so awesome! Afterwards, we hung out and went to lunch and waited for our bus driver to pick us up for the airport! After a short 40 minute flight, we we made it to Siem Reap. The hotel is beautiful and you can definitely tell it’s a smaller, more low-key city than Phnom Penh. It’s already pretty late now and we need to get to bed early because we are waking up early to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat!
Today I woke up excited for a new day in Cambodia. I had the opportunity to visit five families battling with HIV and TB. It was very heartbreaking to see these people but also warming to know that Hope, the organization that is with the hospital, helps supply these patients with food and for some a place to live.
This first lady we visited could not even get out of bed and was so frail and weak. She could not have weighed more than 50 pounds. It was a pretty awesome moment when her son asked if we believed in God and when he said they did too. Before we left, we prayed over her and it was a beautiful moment.
The last man we visited was also very emotional. We has HIV and prostrate cancer, he was homeless but Hope have him a place to live. He invited us in and told us his story. His story began during the Khmer Rouge regime when he was only four years old. The Khmer Rouge killed his father and mother leaving him and his 4 brothers and sisters abandoned. Luckily, he escaped to Vietnam. He also told us that when his siblings and neighbors found out that he had HIV, they abandoned him. The man was so grateful for us as we were grateful for him. Not only are we helping change the lives of Cambodia, they are changing our lives as well.
Today was an interesting day. We were split up into three groups again. One group went to the hospital, another went to HIV/Aids home visits and my group went to the service project. At the hospital Libby got a jump start on learning health assessment skills, listening to lung sounds. On the home visits while emotionally impacting they also were in for an unexpected surprise. On their way home their tuk-tuk tire popped leaving them stranded for an hour until another tuk-tuk came. It was quite the experience.
With the service project team the manual labor was about done when we arrived. The tin roof was nearly all replaced. The family showed us their house and with big smiles pointed out the new tin roof. You could see the excitement in their faces. So since the labor was about done we decided to put on a skit for the family. The family consist of about 20 people, between daughters, sons, husbands, wives, and grandchildren. Our translator was a 15 year old boy uncle to his 12 year old nephew.
Today we all separated into groups and were able to do a few different things. Some students went to the hospital for the day and were able to observe a mastectomy. Although it was a little warm in the operating room (they don't keep the operating rooms at freezing temperatures like we do in the states) they really enjoyed being able to watch a surgery from beginning to end.
Another group of students went to continue work on the service project, which was replacing a family's leaky roof with a new tin roof and support beams. They spent the day helping remove the old tin roofing from the home while getting to know the family and playing with children, teaching them tic tac toe.
The rest of us visited the Missionaries of Charity which was founded by Mother Teresa in 1950. The Missionaries of Charity is a center where nuns care for orphaned children with HIV, abandoned adults with mental disabilities and illnesses and provides hospice for women with AIDS. We spent time throughout the day playing with and feeding the children, helping during lunch to feed those with disabilities, doing range of motion exercises with the hospice patients and walking with the patients in the courtyard.
Today our group was divided into three groups doing different acts of service in the community. The group I was in went on HIV home visits to a village outside the city where we also climbed over 500 steps to get to a pagoda over looking the city.
Although most people said it was one of their favorite things we did so far, it was an emotional day for everyone. This was the first time that we saw the conditions that most Cambodians live in and it was truly a harsh reality.
One thing that struck us was the sense of community. A lot of these people had little to no family and from our short time there it really seemed like the village was it's own family. There were some little kids probably between the ages of 3-7 who we're roaming from house to house often following us, climbing in hammocks of neighbors, climbing ladders.
Today we went to the Sihanouk hospital. Here half of us did check-off for the nurses in the hospital. Check offs was a type of memorization on a certain nursing process and skill. The five check offs we did were diabetes, pain, SBAR, Confidentiality and drug calculation. The nurses only have one check off a year, it is a big deal for them and they study very hard. It is all in English so many are more nervous about speaking the English correctly than knowing the skills. Everyone, however, had really excellent English. It was great to interact with them in this setting. Knowing as nursing students we have been in their shoes countless times.
The other half of the students were placed in different units of the hospital to have a clinical rotation.
"We started off this hot and sweaty Cambodian Sunday morning with our friends at the Church of Christ. We took communion together and sang worship songs in both Khmer and English (see video below), such a beautiful and powerful worship experience. After church we had a quick lunch at the hotel of peanut butter and honey sandwiches, Pringles, local fruit, and Oreos.
Then, those of us who had not been before, went to the killing fields at Choeung Ek, just 30 minutes outside Phnom Penh. This was where most of the tortured prisoners from Tuol Slang were taken to be executed. Here, via headset, we heard accounts of survivors and horrifying facts of what occurred in the very place we stood. We saw piles of human skulls, bones, teeth, and clothing, some even still just now making it to the surface of the mass graves that cover the field. Pictured is a tree which was used to beat children to death, and one of the largest mass graves at this site, which held the bodies of 450 victims, both decorated with bracelets left by past visitors paying their respects.
Today, we all went as a Group to the Asia School to teach. I had the privilege of watching the other students in our group teach as I took notes along with the Cambodian students. It was a great experience, not only to learn what I have not yet learned in school, but also to see how eager the Cambodians are to learn their practice. Though what we were teaching them were all fairly basic concepts to us (like hand washing and how to assess and report a patients condition) to them these concepts were less understood. The way they were engaged and asked questions was really great to watch because I could see the impact of what we were teaching.
After teaching all morning and having lunch, we had some down time. A group of us decided to go to the Russian Market for a bit (It is not actually Russian) to experience the culture of this beautiful city even more.
On our second day in Cambodia we toured the Sihanouk Hospital Center of Hope and clinic that a few of us will be working in. The hospital is a private organization that works to provide free healthcare to those who need it. It was such an eye opener to see the difference between this hospital and the hospitals we have in America. Right when we pulled up, I was amazed to see people sitting everywhere. I learned that some of these people could wait all day to be seen or admitted. The ward was a room with 14 beds and no privacy. There is no air conditioning just open windows and fans exposing the patients to 80 to 90 degree heat.
In the afternoon we went to Tuol Sleng or S-21. This is a museum that is in a former Khmer Rouge prison. Tuol Sleng was originally a high school but when the Khmer Rouge took over in 1975 it was converted into one of the biggest prisons in the regime. There were a total of 20,000 people that were imprisoned and tortured there. After these people were tortured they were taken to be killed in a nearby killing field. Of the 20,000 people, only 7 survived. Now only 2 of those 7 are still alive, Vann Nath (picture) and Chum Mey. We were able to meet these two men. It was inspirational to hear each of their stories about their survival in the prison and made me so thankful for what I have.
After over 30 hours of traveling, we finally made it to Phnom Penh! From the moment we walked out of the airport, we have literally (and I mean literally) have not stopped sweating. I think this is the first time many of us have experienced 95 degree heat with 85% humidity. Anyways, we were happily greeted at the airport by 3 Cambodians that our instructors have come to view as family and took two buses to “The Golden Gate Hotel” where we unpacked and got ready to explore the city. We stopped at a place called the Java Café and it was not only extremely cheap (by American standards), but to my surprise, was full of mostly American and Europeans.