Cambodia - a country riddled with blood-stained scars of genocidal atrocities were committed in her lands. Forty years ago (1975-1979), two million victims including professionals, intellectuals, suspected political enemies and ethnic minorities were executed under the Khmer Rouge regime; many others died from starvation and disease. This historic era left Cambodia, one of the most advanced economies in Southeast Asia in it’s time, a crippled nation with a generation lost and wide set poverty. Deeply inspired by the 2014 mission, Bread & Life International (BLi) returned to Cambodia this year.
On July 12th, a team of fifteen made their way from the UK to Cambodia, where their time was divided between Siam Reap, Kampong Thom, and Phnom Penh. The sustainable projects that were set up in rural villages included pig farms, water pumps and biological water filters to allow easy access to clean water. Vegetable seeds and farming equipments were also donated to the villagers.
The two doctors present in the team, along with the local nurses who assisted and translated, ran medical clinics in 6 different villages and orphanages. Between 60 - 100+ patients were seen each day.
The average wage of a villager is 40 US dollars per month, whereas an average medical consultation costs approximately 30 US dollars. Common presenting symptoms and diseases included: fever, infections, back pain, cataracts, diarrhoea, and in particular iodine deficiency induced thyroid enlargement. The local people are not able to afford medical care and therefore do not seek medical attention even in critical conditions, which often has a significant impact on their ability to carry out their labour-intense daily work.
During the medical clinics, the doctors provided individual medical consultations and medications were given out for free. The team de-loused many of the children who suffered from moderate to severe contamination of head lice due to hygiene conditions. There was also a prayer station where team members could pray and share the gospel with the patients.
One patient was completely blind in one eye due to a swollen eyelid compressing the eyeball. This started from a small cut on the upper eyelid; following superstitious advice, and without any available health care, she treated the wound by scraping it with a metal ring. This case clearly demonstrated how simple precautions with basic health education can prevent potentially tragic outcomes. Another patient suffered from breast pain for 2 years and could not afford the appropriate medical assessment or treatment. Professor Ningwen - a professor and senior plastic surgeon, assessed the patient and decided that surgery was the best option. The surgery was conducted successfully and a large breast tumour was removed and sent for biopsy.
Establishing sustainable projects allows the locals to reap the benefits long after the team has left. For example, the pig farm, vegetable seeds and farming equipment will help provide a stable source of food and income for the local villagers and orphanages. Vegetables grown from these seeds will be used to grow more crops, which in turn help provide more seeds to plant. We also donated mosquito nets, to help prevent fatal diseases such as malaria and dengue fever.
Having clean water that’s easily accessible is one of the most serious and pressing matters in developing countries. For this reason, we invested in water pumps and water filters for the villages.
Alongside these projects, the team spent a day with Agape International Missions (AIM) in Phnom Penh. AIM's projects prevent, rescue, restore & reintegrate children and women from the sex trafficking industry through providing a home, education, training and employment. In 2013, Pip - a BLi member from the May 2013 Cambodia mission was deeply inspired by the work that she decided to move to Cambodia and serve at AIM. She has now been in Cambodia for the last 18 months.
Over these 2 weeks, the team witnessed the strength and perseverance of the Cambodian people. They are relaxed, joyful, and know the fruitfulness of hard work. Young or old, farmer or teacher, they excel at what they do and take pride in their work. They are not ignorant of their past - a boy from the Solid Rock orphanage shared with us the difficulties of life in Cambodia: a generation of professionals erased by the Khmer Rouge made it so difficult to produce new professionals. His dream of becoming a doctor is an expensive one as each academic year of study costs 1200 US dollars or 3 year’s salary of a farmer or a year salary for a worker in the city.
However, regardless of the difficulties, he has shown determination to continue to work hard, and eventually find a way to enter medical school and fund his education. Other Cambodian teenagers and young adults have shared similar dreams and ambitions with the BLi team; all who have been involved have expressed that they feel blessed to be called to provide and fuel the ambition of this new generation of Cambodia.
There is so much more to share! - We would like to express our heartfelt appreciation and thanks to everyone - your encouragement, prayer and support for the projects, medication and essentials made this trip possible!