Rose Charities Cambodia: by Rebecca Norris

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.

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1. FIRST STOP: Rose Charities Cambodia Eye Clinic

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

Boys and Girls: by Patrick O’Hagan: Read this harrowing essay which refers to Rose partner Tabish Community Health Organization

tabish-kid-picture1 “…The dean asks the child and his family if he wishes to be sacrificed in the way of Islam,’ Dr Abed replied. ‘This doesn’t mean giving him up to suicide bombing, but some will be. It can escalate from one madrassah to another and eventually the child might find himself in a place where the children are training to be suicide-bombers. The students in these madrassahs will be taken to the ultimate training centre in Pakistan blindfolded. They don’t know where they are going and when they arrive at this camp they have lost their bearings….”

READ the full essay…

 

NZ donated operating microscope for Rose Charities Eye Clinic

mike-microscope-vra-dan-hitMike Webber (Rose NZ Trustee) delivers  a wonderful NZ donated  Topcon  operating microscope to Dr Hang Vra (left) and the Rose Eye Clinic.  Mike and Anne Webber  brought  up from NZ and assembled it on site. The donation will  give  considerable upgrade in the clinics remarkable services for Cambodian blind and/or in need of eye surgery. The scope was taken up to Cambodia by Mike and Anne Webber and assembled there by them on site by them.

The Rose Charities Cambodia Eye Clinic / Sight Center has treated over 100,000 patients in the last 10 years.  It also runs an outreach program, taking eye screening, out to rural areas as well as promoting eye health.The clinic was founded in 1997.   though had to be entirely re-equipped when it was looted by an expatriate orchestrated group of thieves in 2003.

Rose Charities Hillman Fund – short report 2012-2013

HMEF ANNUAL REPORT 2012/13  <click for full report *.pdf> 

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HMEF supports Cambodia Rehab Centre

The Hillman Medical Education Fund (HMEF) of Rose Charities Canada was started in 2007 by Dr Liz Hillman in memory of her husband Don and to continue their lifetime’s work supporting health education, especially in East Africa.   HMEF’s goal is to support potential leaders in health care and assist them as they build health education projects in their own communities. This year HMEF funded projects are in Uganda, Kenya, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Cambodia. Dedicated local leaders run all these projects. They are able to stretch our small grants to achieve big results. Typically grants are under $5000. The HMEF Team in Canada, led by Dr Joanne Young and guided by Dr Liz Hillman are all volunteers of Rose Charities Canada. They volunteer their time and cover any admin costs so that 100% of your donation will be sent to a project.

Rose Cambodia Rehab Center benefits from UK volunteer Donna

 

Finance Officer Rith, Volunteer Accountant Donna and A/Director of RCRC, Sophak

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!

Cambodia’s Disability Network (CIDI) – integrating Govt and NGO initiatives in Cambodia

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Sophak (Admin/Outreach Coordinator, RCRC), Lee (Organisational Development Officer, RCRC) and Tokyo (Senior Program Manager, Australian Embassy, Phnom Penh) at the CIDI Network meeting.

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.

Neonatal Resuscitation Course Haiti: March 2013.. … Linda and Andrew Warner write…

Sunday, March 10th, 2013

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.



Linda-Hard to believe I am back in Port-au-Prince for the fourth time since the big earthquake in January of 2010. I am grateful to be part of a Rose Charities sustainable project to facilitate a neonatal resuscitation course, as previously requested by many health care professionals in Haiti. On my trip last year I saw firsthand the need for neonatal support, as 5 babies died on my unit in a week at the hospital. Even though the care there was excellent, financial resources are limited, and the staff can benefit from supportive education, equipment and facilitation of resources. Rose Charities is building upon several other trips of surveying Haitian doctors and nurses, networking and teaching certification classes to now offer another day of certifying several trainers, and two full days of teaching a standardized neonatal resuscitation course to approximately 70 nurses and doctors from various hospitals in Haiti to improve care for infants and neonates in Haiti.  I am thrilled to have my 15 year old son Andrew with me filming a documentary about this project, and he is very excited to be here (it is great he speaks French!).  My heart was warm as we flew in today, and I was pleased to see that the airport has been completely renovated since I was here last April, further evidence that positive change is possible and it is real.

Monday, March 11th, 2013

Andrew – Today was “preparation day” for the big week ahead. I have to say it feels weird staying in an almost resort-looking type of place, when there’s so much else outside these gates that I am blind to. I was expecting to arrive at a dirt airport, then drive over to some small house to sleep on the floors. As  per usual in life, nothing is as expected. First of all the airport had a baggage system similar to ours with air-conditioned rooms and even a duty-free store, and considering I was expecting rubble, this was a huge difference. My mom said there have been huge renovations since she was here last, which seems like a good thing. Living in this… Resort/Hotel/Lodge… When there is so much poverty outside, feels wrong. I would feel so much better if I wasn’t so secluded from everyone, I wish I could live with the people rather than safely here. I have to say today was very relaxing though, it gave me a chance to rest from travel before the interviews ahead. I am so relieved to finally be able to stay in this beautiful country of Haiti, however even here, I am still facing first world problems and sometimes don’t realize that I am making them. Things like ” no wifi ” and ” uncharged electronics” really make me feel bad when I see people who have hardly anything living in tiny tents and sheds. I am excited for the week ahead and can’t wait to see and explore more of this amazing country.

 

Wed, March 13, 2013

Linda-the teaching has begun and we are bursting at the seams, having had to turn away many doctors and nurses from this neonatal resuscitation course. The first day was “training the trainers”,  11 doctors and nurses who are assisting with two full days of teaching fresh students! This was a crazy day…on a break we were getting a tour of the hospital and happened upon a 27 week old premie that was blue and in severe distress. Our team sprang  into action and got that baby’s little heart beating again!  Sadly, the baby will not likely make it as there are many other complications, but it was a good team effort, and reminder of what is possible with adequate education and equipment.
Today was a full day of teaching doctors and nurses the NRP course, and we put to good use the trainers we taught on the first day.  The students are so keen and appreciative of the course it is a joy to facilitate!  Andrew and Michael interviewed the head of Pediatrics along with a nurse and 2 pediatric residents, who they had very distinct and insightful observations about health care in Haiti and how best to support it (stay tuned!).
Tonight I ate giraumon (pumpkin) soup, a Haitian specialty dish, and it was delicious! Although I am not a beer fan, I am loving the Haitian beer Prestige in the heat after a long day! My sister and nephew tried to order the Haitian delicacy of cabrite, or goat, but alas they were out :).  We also met up with Einstein Albert, who brought his beautiful Haitian bowls to sell. My new friends Doctors Marie-Josee and Genevieve from Montreal have been amazing instructors of the NRP course, and on top of keeping me in stitches have improved my French immensely!

Friday, March 15th, 2013

Andrew– this week was great. Tuesday, started us off filming at Dr. Lerebours’ office at Hopital Communaute Haitienne, where my mother worked right after the earthquake. Had a great interview with her and it was awesome to see her perspective. She also brought in a family with a Down’s syndrome child for me to interview. After about an hour we went with Jackie LeBrom on a tour around the city. Having lived in Haiti for around 15 years as a tour guide, she really knows her stuff. It was really awesome to see how much history that the country has, and yet very few realize it or even appreciate it. Haiti really is more beautiful than people realize. It is also a country with so any opposites, like poverty and beauty, people in desperation and people with hope. The sights, smells and sounds are also very intense and contradictory, like the smell of delicious food at the same time as rotting garbage piled high on the sidewalk. I kept thinking there was a fire outside every day until I realized it was the coal they cook with as so many of them do not have ovens, let alone homes. I watched a group burn tires as an act of protest. I thought that in a country with a culture so unique to the rest, even the protesters were different from any I have ever heard of. I had a good interview later with Jackie, especially with her outside perspectives.
     The next day we spent filming RoseCharities’ neonatal resuscitation program interviewing students and doctors all around. It was an experience unlike any other to be able to feel progress almost as if it were tangible, mainly because the impact is so lasting, and the students in theclass were so appreciative. I am also so thankful for our healthcare here in Canada. I have to say it is crazy to be able to watch this develop as we are educating future pediatricians and doctors to actually be able to save babies’ lives when it wasn’t always possible before.
     Now we are in Wahoo Bay, enjoying the ocean’s wind and the marvellous sunset, here is truly one of the places where Haitian beauty is easily seen.
Sincerely,
     -Andrew Warner

Monday, March 18th, 2013

Linda-well, we took the weekend off to thoroughly enjoy the beauty of Haiti and the turquoise sea at Wahoo Bay! Beautiful gardens, fresh seafood, friendly people, Haitian music and lots of time to relax! Unfortunately, Andrew had gastro for half of the weekend, but my little filmmaker has been a real trooper! Wahoo Bay is about an hour from Port-au-Prince, and the resort is part of a rebranding program for emphasizing the positive facets of Haiti, for which there are many. As we have traveled through the streets, I am thrilled to see so much improvement and development since I was here following the earthquake three years ago! Many foreign countries have been frustrated with not seeing immediate change in response to a lot of donations, but in a country with little infrastructure one needs to have patience, and more importantly, faith. The people here have such a desire to participate in change, but it takes time, money, education, facilitation of skills and equipment, and above all, it is important to ask the Haitians themselves their priorities and needs, instead of a multitude of well meaning NGOs storming in with contradictory ideas and assumptions. It’s all about empowerment. The philosophy with Rose Charities has been focused on “a hand up, not a hand out” and “teaching a man to fish”, based on a needs assessment survey to the Haitians themselves, and that is why I am proud to be part of this project.
 
      

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013-Lespwa

Linda-these are the faces, the hearts that haunt my soul…the reason I come back to Haiti…again, and again, and again, and again. Since visiting the beauty of the sea on the weekend, we have traveled to film at several hospitals in Port-au-Prince. We interviewed nurses, pediatricians and medical directors, along with families whose children have conditions that are usually treatable, fixable, or preventable in Canada. We wanted to assess the greatest needs for health care according to the people of Haiti, and to gain insight as to how we can best support that as a country, as a charity organization, and as fortunate human beings that are blessed to have just been born in a different place.
As much as my friends back home have nicknamed me “the Icewoman” for rarely shedding a tear back home, I cannot say the same is true in Haiti. It broke my heart to see children with hydrocephalus (swelling on the brain) that could have been easily prevented with access to a neurosurgeon, to see babies with disease related to malnutrition simply because they were starving, children with typhoid or other vaccine preventable diseases, and babies that didn’t survive simply because the doctors and nurses who are keen to learn do not have the training or the equipment to save these lives. The little baby I hold in the photo above has spina bifida, and his surgery was delayed for over a month because Haiti has no pediatric neurosurgeons. The worried mom was overjoyed when I told her my beautiful 17 year old niece Katie also has spina bifida, and has a wonderful life, playing sports and doing well at school with a gazillion friends, and that she even just got her driver’s license with an adapted car! Our discussion gave this mom hope, which in Creole is “lespwa”, and that is the basis of survival for this nation.