Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Our Final Memories in Cambodia

COUNTRY: Cambodia
PROGRAM: UniBreak Groups
PROJECT: University of Newcastle Nursing Placement
WRITTEN BY: Justine Nicholson and Nikki Smith

Our group spent the weekend in Siem Reap, which was a new and exciting experience for all of us. Temples, temples and more temples! We watched the sunrise at Angkor Wat, which was well worth the early start and the wait for the sun to come up through the clouds. This was followed by climbing the stairs of Angkor Wat for a majestic view and exploring the city of Angkor Thom and its three temples. It was also great to spend the afternoon in Ta Prohm, which placed us right in the middle of Tomb Raider. Equally as spectacular was the sunset at Angkor Wat which some of the group got to enjoy. We flew back to Phnom Penh on Sunday ready for our second round of health assessments at a new venue.

Day 16
We travelled to a different part of town where our next placement was situated. We all got a shock as we walked down the alley toward where we would be spending the next 4 days. We were introduced to the co-ordinator who educated us about the organisation and its aims to help the surrounding community to stop child sex trafficking and educate those in need. Their objectives also include education for work and improving living standards of the surrounding community.

On the first day, we were told we would be seeing around 50 kids in the morning and 50 in the afternoon. As the day went by it became clear that the differences in health needs for this community were much different to our first placement. We also had the opportunity to undertake health care assessments on women as old as 97 and babies as young as 2 months old. The reality of the poor health in this community made us grateful for the healthcare in Australia by comparison.

For Australia Day we organised with our hotel to have a BBQ. We invited our new Cambodian friends, who were our interpreters, to join our fun. This was the first time they had experienced an Australia Day celebration. We enjoyed the BBQ with fresh prawns, BBQ beef, pork and vegetables and Cambodian beer. We also made lamingtons with the ingredients we had access to and some very creative chefs! A great night was had by all and it was a great opportunity to show another culture how we celebrate our beautiful country.

Day 17 and 18
We continued our work, learning some valuable lessons about paediatric care, as well as the value of our limited resources to a community with reduced health care opportunities. In addition to our general health checks, some of the team also provided excellent oral and hand hygiene and baby washing education sessions for all ages. We are finding the work quite liberating. Together we are battling the heat, different emotions, varied health issues coming to our door, and the challenging opportunities to provide some treatment for these beautiful Cambodian people.

On Wednesday night we had our final group dinner. Here we presented our in-country partner, Linda, with her first ever bunch of flowers, and all of the interpreters with a group photo of our entire team from Australia Day.

Day 19
With some of the money fundraised within the team, we were able to provide the organisation with a new fridge, medicine cabinet, various medical equipment, 30 tetanus and 3 rabies vaccinations, and money to fund transportation of sick children to the hospital. The happiness of all the staff and community was overwhelming for all of us. We were also been able to finalise our donations and sponsorships to various organisations after speaking with founders and directors earlier this week.

We all got to enjoy our last night out in Phnom Penh. We savoured our last taste of traditional Khmer food, and many ventured to the local theme park for some fun!

Day 20

The final day was bitter sweet. Many of us left for home, with the exception of a few adventurers. However, none of us are quite ready to leave this amazing country and our amazing new friends! All of the interpreters woke up bright and early to give the most heart-warming send off - right up to the entry of the airport! After this experience we are all heading home feeling proud and with a sense of achievement for making an impact on the lives of so many deserving people.


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