After returning from an inspiring trip to Cambodia, I wanted to share with you some of the uplifting stories and important work being carried out by Rose Charities in Cambodia. Here are stories of the courageous patients I had the pleasure of meeting and who are being treated at Rose facilities.
1. FIRST STOP: Rose Charities Cambodia Eye Clinic
One of the most endearing people I met during my travels was little Bunmeng, a 7 1/2 month old who travelled all the way from Svay Rieng province, a four hour journey, for eye care. I met Bunmeng and his family as they were waiting to be seen for a consultation. Bunmeng’s mother, aunt and older brother traveled four hours via taxi with him to the Rose eye clinic in order to be treated for abnormal eye discharge. Despite the long trip, Bunmeng was cared for at the Rose eye clinic free of charge. Run by a skilled Cambodian team of experts led by Dr. Hang Vra, the facility is the largest free eye clinic in Cambodia, which conducts 50 consultations each day and performs 50-60 eye surgeries a week.
2. SECOND STOP: Rose Cambodia Rehabilitation Centre (RCRC)
RCRC is comprised of a stand-alone physical therapy facility which predominantly treats traffic accident patients, and a maternity center within the neighboring Chey Chumneas Referral hospital which provides pre and post-natal care. RCRC is led by two part-time Cambodian physical therapists, Ms. Chhay Leangkhy and Mr. Phok Somet, with volunteer support and mentorship by the experienced physio Zoe Blair of New Zealand. RCRC care is offered free of charge for indigent patients, and those who can afford a nominal fee pay per session. Despite the unlucky and discouraging accidents that led patients to RCRC, a pleasant atmosphere permeates the centre.
Meet Maryne. Only 17, Maryne comes to RCRC on a daily basis as soon as school lets out, after her left leg was crushed by her moto when a dog aimlessly ran into the street. She began coming to Rose for physical therapy after being treated in a public hospital for her acute care in addition to private home staff. Unfortunately, rehab is not included in hospitals as post-op care in Cambodia, both one of the reasons for RCRC’s inception and it’s high-demand among patients.
Yi, 69, is a nun who began coming to RCRC after breaking her arm. She initially visited a local traditional Khmer healer, who mistakenly treated her wrist. In the months since the injury, her arm has healed itself, however, Yi’s shoulder was affected from the strain caused by her sling and she’s in severe pain. RCRC is working on a holistic approach to strengthening her upper body.
RCRC’s newest patient is Chanrith, a 3 1/2 year old born with a congenital disjointed knee. His parents were not aware of the severity of his knee problems until recently, and while Chanrith has the ability to walk, he limps and experiences pain. RCRC is working on developing a physiotherapy program for Chanrith, in conjunction with the local children’s surgery center which is assessing whether or not he will need an operation.
3. THIRD STOP: Kosal’s home (a RCRC patient) in rural Takhmao outside Phnom Penh
I have one final, heartfelt story for you.
The most captivating and inspiring story from my visit to Cambodia by far is that of Kosal. The breadwinner of his family, Kosal (30) supports his 88 year-old grandmother, his parents who cannot work due to debilitating illnesses, and his younger sister. While working at a construction site, the board Kosal was standing on unexpectedly snapped, falling a considerable distance and injuring his hip. Unable to cover the cost of the recommended surgery, Kosal remained bed-ridden for two months without the ability to walk, let along support his family. After learning about RCRC from a relative, Kosal began regularly attending physical therapy sessions at the centre, and in only a few weeks time (with a lot of dedicated care) was able to begin walking again. After marked improvement, Kosal has now reduced his RCRC visits to only once/week, and does the remaining exercises at home. Kosal has returned to part-time work and hopes to be fully employed again soon.
These are just a few of the courageous patients being treated at Rose facilities. In a country where post op physical therapy is rarely offered and where many needy patients are priced out of eye care, multiple Rose facilities are making it possible for these patients to get better so they can live healthy lives. For some that means returning to a job so you can support your family, it means forgetting that you used to limp and enjoying your childhood, and it means spending more time studying and enjoying adolescence. We all have our own stories. Become part of the Rose Charities story and you can help patients like Kosal, Chanrith, Maryne and Yi. #RoseCharities supports #PeopleHelpingPeople. Show your support here.
Today the RCRC team met with Kim and Marady, representatives from Cambodia Cares, to develop a new partnership. Cambodia Cares is an organization offering flexible volunteer roles to Cambodians, to help promote a giving culture amongst local people and encourage them to contribute to their own society. Cambodia Cares offers volunteer positions that can accommodate for work/study/family commitments, to make it as easy as possible for people to become involved. RCRC met with Cambodia Cares to discuss the possibility of hosting Cambodian volunteers, which we are of course very excited about! We are even considering signing up our staff to be volunteers for other projects! This is a wonderful new relationship that we hope will be a prosperous connection for both RCRC and Cambodia Cares.
Ms. Lee Parker, an Australian volunteer as Organisational Development Officer through Australian Volunteer for International Development (AVID). She had been worked with us at Rose Cambodia Rehabilitation Centre (RCRC) for 18 months since October 2011-April 2013.
During her volunteering period, she had walked along RCRC to overcome many challenges and tried her best to develop RCRC to be a formal local NGO by assisting RCRC previous director, Mr. Pech Darong and building capacity of RCRC staff members such as Administration/Outreach Coordinator, Ms. Sophak and other staff members as much as she can. She always give us full and heart-to-heart support.
RCRC’s team are appreciated very much and would like to show our gratitude for what she had done and provided great support.
That’s so sad for us when she finished her volunteering. However, we hope she have nice trip back to her country and happiness with her family that she left for 18 months.
We wish her to be healthy and hope to see her again in the future.
In February, RCRC was delighted to welcome our second volunteer from the UK-based NGO Accountants for International Development (AfID). Donna was able to meet up with our first volunteer Matt, in London prior to her flight to Cambodia. The meeting provided Donna with a great early briefing about what to expect in Phnom Penh when she arrived, and gave her an overview of the work ahead.
RCRC, although a small organisation, has the same requirements for careful management of our donors funds and formal grants, as any larger NGO. Donna has helped our Finance Officer, Rith and our Acting Director, Sophak to develop a stronger system of reports, work that was begun by Matt in 2012. Donna was also invaluable in helping us to prepare budgets for planned new projects.
We thank Donna for her six weeks here and hope she enjoys her well-earned holiday in other parts of Cambodia as well as Laos, Vietnam and Thailand!
Sokny at the International Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy congress 2013 in India.
Senior RCRC Physiotherapist, Sokny took to the skies in early March – on his first ever flight – to New Delhi, India.
As the winner of the Evelyn Mackin Award for a therapist from a developing country, RCRC was thrilled that Sokny had this opportunity to take part in this fantastic learning opportunity.
There was a great deal to choose from – as the conference was attended by many health disciplines including specialist hand surgeons. Also present were Occupational Therapists, Prosthetists and Orthotists (POs), Physiotherapists, and researchers.
Sokny focussed on topics that might be of greatest use in Cambodia, and here at RCRC. These were wrist instability: splinting or exercise; stabilisation exercise for wrist instability; rehabilitation for patients with burns; thumb instability: surgery, splints or exercise, and consideration of the kinds of splinting material and types of splints. Hand therapy is such a specialist area, and in Cambodia, as elsewhere, so much is at stake if hand use is compromised through injury.
It wasn’t quite all work though, Sokny also grabbed the chance to visit the Taj Mahal!
‘Amazing and fantastic’ is how he summed it up. Sokny is looking forward to the opportunity to pass on his new found knowledge, to his RCRC colleagues and to members of the Cambodian Physical Therapy Association (CPTA).
RCRC is enormously grateful to the International Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy, for providing Sokny with an all-expenses paid opportunity to learn so much from others in the field of hand therapy.
On Sunday 3 March , we bade farewell to our Senior Physiotherapist Sokny as he boarded a flight to India, brand new passport in hand. Sokny is travelling New Delhi to attend the International Federation of Societies for Hand Therapy (IFSHT) Triennial Congress – 4 – 8 March 2013. This is an especially exciting trip for him because it’s his first time travelling outside Cambodia, as well as his first time attending an international standard conference.
Sokny is the winner of the 2013 Evelyn Mackin Award, from IFSHT, which has been awarded to him for displaying a keen interest in Hand Therapy and demonstrating leadership in developing Hand Therapy as a specialty practice in Cambodia. Attending this Congress will make Sokny the most qualified Cambodian Hand Therapist in Phnom Penh and enable him to network with Physiotherapists and other health professionals from all over the world.
We are very proud of Sokny for both receiving this award and his aplomb in managing his pre-departure preparation! We are very excited about welcoming him home and look forward to hearing about all that he has learned!
On 28 February and 1 March, Sophak and Lee attended the final meeting of the Cambodian Initiative for Disability Inclusion (CIDI) Network. By funding 55 projects, which have been run by 38 Cambodian local organisations, the Australian Red Cross’s CIDI network has been a great success, not only funding disability projects directly, but holding regular workshops to build the capacity of the Khmer staff of the member organisations.
RCRC has really benefitted from being part of this wonderful network, since we joined 18 months ago. We actively participated in the following workshops to develop understanding and skills in the following ways:
- First Aid training
- Self-help groups – we learned from each other’s organisations about the sustainable change that many SHGs achieve in small villages and in towns,
- Advocacy – how to build better community understanding of disability; at present there is still a lot of discrimination against people with disabilities,
- Quickbooks (accounting software program) training for some key beneficiaries of RCRC’s Access For All project,
- Child Protection Policy development and implementation,
- Monitoring and evaluation – with field experience. RCRC worked with Muslim Aid Cambodia for a Peer to Peer Evaluation, with a visit by RCRC to Muslim Aid in Kampong Chhnang, and a return visit by Muslim Aid to RCRC’s Access For All project in Prey Veng.
- And, we received financial support to send Sophak to the 2nd Asian Pacific CBR (Community-Based Rehabilitation) congress in Manilla, Philippines.
All the members of the CIDI network have really valued these meetings and workshops. They’ve helped build close relationships through sharing information, knowledge and experiences of working in the disability sector, and, crucially the network has made a big contribution to developing the capacity of Khmer staff in the above ways. We are all hoping very much that there is a way for the Australian Red Cross to be able to continue to run the network.
RCRC was honored on Wednesday 5 December when our founder – Joanna Thomson – was awarded a medal at the National Conference on Disability Inclusive Development, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia!
She is pictured here with His Excellency Ith Sam Heng, the Minister for Social Affairs, Veterans Affairs and Youth Rehabilitation, who presented her with a medal for her services in collaborating with government to help alleviate poverty through providing rehabilitation services for people with a disability.
What a well-deserved honour! Jo has spent several years working to establish rehabilitation services for poor and marginalised Cambodians, establishing RCRC at the government’s Chey Chumneas Referral Hospital in Kandal Province. Although Jo is now back in Australia, she remains as committed to RCRC as ever and we were excited that she was able to make a short visit for this occasion.
Our accountant volunteer from the British NGO Accountants for International Development (AfID) Matt, was with us for almost two months and made a fantastic contribution to RCRC. We were so sorry to see him go! On his last day we presented him with a certificate of appreciation, a pair of black traditional pants and a Cambodian blue and white karma, which Matt loved.
This is a belated posting with news of Matt’s farewell – but Matt, we hope you enjoy creating your own Cambodian food as much as you enjoyed eating the various dishes while here!