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Asia » Cambodia » North » Siem Reap
February 12th 2009
Published: February 12th 2009
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--this is more the weather I was expecting--hot, humid, lots of grit in the air, walking around makes your eyes burn. Good weather for my last day in Siem Reap, since it leavens my regret.

Yesterday I visited Angkor Hospital for Children, which is sponsored by Friends without a Border. The way it works (outpatient) is you go in, get a number, and wait for triage. There you're admitted to a scheduled appointment, or get a nursing intervention, or get sent on for additional care.

Here's how they describe themselves:
Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) serves as the pediatric department for Siem Reap’s Provincial Hospital, but also treats children from neighboring provinces. Providing outpatient, inpatient, acute, emergency, surgical, low-acuity, dental and ophthalmologic care, AHC has treated almost 500,000 children since 1999. Currently the outpatient department sees 300-400 children each day and maintains 50 inpatient beds. Patients are asked to pay a nominal fixed fee per visit if they can afford to do so - all treatment and inpatient care is free of charge.

You can see much better photos than mine here (very slow loading PDF). I was hustled in and out pretty carefully by the guard so I couldn't linger and get grounds photos (though I did get one good sign).

I met with Ms. Manila, who I believe is the nursing volunteer coordinator, and she was not very encouraging about non-technical volunteers. She referred me to the hospital's website as the starting point for potential voluntarism. This page includes a great deal of information for non-medical volunteers. Note that this is a site that needs a lot of time to consider your application and get the necessary paperwork completed, so plan ahead.

In contrast to Manila's hesitation, the volunteer nurse told me that there's a huge need, but that the concept of human services is alien. This is a great example of cultural difference in describing what an organization's needs are, and you can see where there could be a pretty bad mismatch if there weren't adequate discussion beforehand.

I also had a chance conversation with a member of the board of directors. He said that there's a dearth of mental health services and that if I wanted to, I should propose to visit and give some mental health lectures. I immediately started thinking about somatized expressions of distress and how using a Sullivanian interview style might be more effective than a dyadic confrontational method, so this might be a possibility for the future.

Like all hospitals in the region, they would like blood donations, and I have that delicious type B blood that is prevalent in Asia. Sadly, the volunteer nurse was not sufficiently sold on their sterile procedures and recommended against it.

In the later afternoon I visited THREADS, a project that a Villa Siem Reap employee, Pat, has recently started. Its intention is to provide a drop-in volunteer opportunity for visitors, but primarily to involve the community in its schools. Pat explained that the schools aren't zoned, so if you can get your child to a school you like, it doesn't have to be nearby. This contributes to a less-coherent community relationship to the schools. If you'd like to contact Pat, let me know.

Pat also recommended Caring for Cambodia as well as Daniella Papi's PEPY Ride (see also here).

Here's how they describe themselves:

PEPY Tours combine adventure travel with hands-on volunteer projects. Our adventure voluntours in Cambodia range from environmental education bike treks to volunteer projects such as rainwater collection unit building at rural schools. Cambodia is known as the home of Angkor Wat, but the Cambodian countryside is also home to palm tree dotted landscapes, welcoming villages, and endless roads of smiles. Experience a PEPY Tour and have a chance to "Go where your money goes."TM Participants travel through Cambodia’s hidden rural towns and volunteer with the people and programs their funding supports.

Whew.

Today I had a 9:30 AM appointment at Green Gecko. I had their map and set off on foot. Their map is about 50%!i(MISSING)n agreement with reality, so I took two incorrect roads for a while, ultimately managing to retrace my steps and get there.

I was given a tour by Claire from Australia. The Green Gecko Project works with former street children (that is, beggars) from Siem Reap. They currently have 60 children, most of whom have parents. However, as a consequence of land mine injuries, their parents are often alcohol/substance abusers or gamblers, and the majority of the kids have been abused. The program began as a 9:00-1:00 day program, but now is residential. Children from 31 families are there (though many have other siblings who aren't--if all of the kids in these families were there, there would be about 250 of them).

Green Gecko has 15 Khmer staff and their English classes are taught by Khmer teachers. Their new social worker, an Australian, speaks fluent Khmer. There appear to be volunteer opportunities that are a good fit for human services students and graduates who have at least 2-3 months ' availability. The children I saw all seemed to be in good shape and conversed with me in English. All of the children attend Khmer school, and about 4-0 also attend English school. The earlier a child started the program, the more likely he or she is to be functioning at grade level.

In another of those donor/recipient mismatches, they received money for computers, but didn't have sufficient electrical capability to run them. They now usse solar power, which they had to set up in order to run the laptops. The children each get about 2 hours a week of computer time.

When I left, I followed their seemingly straightforward map and wound up miles away. I still don't have a very clear sense of how it happened. I am pretty sure they're 1.5 to 2 miles from my hotel, so a 3-4 mile round trip walk, but I had about an 8 mile walk this morning. I could have had any number of tuk tuk or motorbike rides, but I was into it. As I neared my street, I saw a motorbike whose driver was precariously balancing one of the water filters I wrote about the other day--quite a balancing act.

Tomorrow I bus to Phnom Penh. The university has asked me to do a series of trainings (on Bronfenbrenner's ecological model, psychology and diabetes, HIV/AIDS, and Solution Focused Therapy) as well as meet with their master's Counseling Psychology students at their clinic. Maddy, one of my undergraduates, will join me from Singapore, and a board member from Friendship with cambodia may be there as well. It should be fun.


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