Time is going incredibly fast as we’ve been in Kampot for nearly a week! We’ve stayed extremely busy with our volunteer organization but we have had some pretty neat experiences in the process. As I mentioned in my last blog, we are working with Solaid–an NGO based here in Cambodia. We have continued our nutritional checks (checking the children’s height and weights) at many schools in the surrounding area and have conducted a few more computer learning classes. Our trip is also working with an organization called First Sight which aims at providing children (or adults), around the world, with their first pair of glasses. We received a donated kit from First Sight that we brought with us from the states. It includes an eye chart, lens, frames, etc so we are able to construct glasses for people in need right then and there. As we have been visiting the schools to check for heights and weights, we have also set up a basic eye examination station where everyone’s vision is tested. The process is actually pretty smooth–we test both eyes individually to determine the vision acuity of each eye. Surprisingly, most of the children have perfect 20/20 vision–these are the easy kids who are very fast to check! For those needing glasses, we have a lens tree that we use to help determine which lens would be the best fit. When ready, the newly made glasses are distributed and ready to be worn! It is neat seeing some of the reactions as for many, this Is the first time that they can see correctly for numerous years! Some are unaware that their vision is altered while others are fully aware. This has been a nice aspect of the work that we’ve been doing here in Kampot and we’ve loved some of the expressions when putting on the glasses for the first time!
The past few days, we’ve also helped out a local school with their botanical garden by translating the name of their plants into English with an English description. The school is hoping to attract more tourists to the botanical garden but it has been difficult without English labels–fortunately, this is now fixed! One of my favorite experiences of the trip so far has been teaching English one afternoon to a few classes. I asked some basic questions like what is your name, do you have any siblings, and what is your favorite food. Then I taught them how the difference between even and odd numbers–they did great with the chanting of numbers, ha! And finally, it was music time. The classes sang a few songs for us in English–my favorite was the “Tuk Tuk song” which turned out to be the wheels on the tuk tuk… It was hilarious! We taught them how to sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes… they seemed to enjoy both!
We’ve also continued to check up on Solaid families. Today, we learned of a man who was in extreme pain and simply wanted to die. We went to his house and found him simply lying on raised platform in the shade. His wife explained to us that he hadn’t been feeling well for a few weeks and that they were too far from a health aid–although health care is free for very poor families here in Cambodia, the lack of transportation can be problematic. To complicate the matters, the man stepped on a land mine about twenty years ago and lost a leg so his personal ability to move is quite limited. We loaded him and his wife up in our Solaid truck and I was able to join the staff as we took them into the health aid. The situation here in Cambodia works such that you must first visit a health aid who will assess you and determine if they can help you or if you need to go to a hospital to see a doctor. The issue is that these health aids have very minimal training and I’m venturing to say would know just as much as the average American about health care. That being said, the doctors aren’t a ton better here. Fortunately, we got a referral so we were off to the hospital. When we arrived, the nurse asked what the man was here for and he described his pain to her. Remember, that this man was literally hoping to die he has been in so much pain. Well, the nurse scrutinized him for coming in without a real problem… I was shocked and saddened as it was clear that the elderly man was in need of help! Her advice was to go home, drink lots of water, and eat lots of vegetables… and miraculously he should get better. Luckily, we were there and insisted that he see a doctor. Finally she gave in and pointed to a room where we could find a bed. The room was open to the outside and hot, crammed with ten beds, three of which were free. The elderly man (who was quite scared in the first place) took a seat on the old, metal bed that contained the thinnest mat I’ve probably ever seen. The other individuals were all hooked up to IVs and just stared at the newcomer as the nurse finally assessed him (the nurse was the only staff member present to monitor approximately twenty patients). He, too, was given an IV and told to wait for the doctor. We weren’t sure when the doctor would come so we told them that we would check back. I now understand why the man would rather die than even visit the hospital in the first place–the hospital itself seems like a death sequence. When we checked back about five hours later, the man had just been seen by a doctor. We are planning on stopping by tomorrow to see if there are any updates.
Although volunteering has kept us extremely busy (and has made us all quite exhausted), we’ve had a bit of time to explore Kampot. We took a beautiful river cruise and we joined a local family for lunch one day which was delicious! The town also has a small movie theatre where we were able to view “The Killing Fields,” a movie about the mass killings here in Cambodia. I’ll expand upon the event in a blog to come. We have also visited many temples around Kampot including a beautiful, massive one along the river. The temples have so much character to them–it has been a lot of fun getting to check them out!
Time for a short rest before another long day!