Saturday, 5 December 2015

Cambodia: Learning the value of strength and resilience

COUNTRY: Cambodia
PROJECT: Physiotherapy
WRITTEN BY: Jess Garner

It happened! The time finally came when we were stepping onto the plane heading towards our home for the next 4 weeks - Siem Reap, Cambodia! Our first week has flown by, and no amount of study could have prepared us for it! Day one we went on a walking tour of the city, where we got our first real glimpse of Cambodia. We wandered through the meat markets, dodged the traffic like pros, and even bravely attempted the infamous street food (delicious, by the way!) We also got to meet with our interpreters, who valiantly attempted to teach us some Khmer by the pool. Although it was a bit hit and miss we all had a good laugh, and learnt to say “Soosaday! Tear Neak Sok Sabai Te?” or “Hello! How are you?” Well at least I'm pretty sure that's what we’re saying!

Week 1

Day two was eye opening, to say the least. We received our training for placement, which included a brief history of Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge regime. We were blessed with an amazing teacher that had a true passion for the Cambodian culture and child protection, and all of us left there a little different than when we came in.

Day three was spent visiting our placement sites - the military hospital, a local school, the Diabetes Association, and the physical rehab centre, and before we knew it it was finally day four, and our first official day of placement! The fourth years had the confidence, the third years the enthusiasm, and together we set off to our sites for the day. I think that's when it hit us all that this was not going to be your typical placement.

Upon walking into the rehab centre, people with prosthetics were walking on poles, over rocks, and up what I like to refer to as the ladder of insanity! The people were truly lovely, and more than willing to talk with us (despite our questionable Khmer!), and I think we learnt far more from them than they could ever learn from us (but we gave it a crack anywho!). The girls at the diabetes association met with clients, educated on the importance of exercise for diabetes management, and constructed unique exercise programs. At the school Gem and Gabby got thrown in to the deep end and came back swinging – literally – by getting the kids up and moving with some rather stylish dance moves.

The experiences we have had over the past week has been truly invaluable, and the strength and resilience of the clients almost unbelievable. I think I speak for everyone when I say: bring on the next few weeks!

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