Today was our first day of clinic at a new location, a beautifully kept church compound not far from where we are staying. I think the new environment energized us and set up went smoothly. We had a lovely, well-paced morning with each of us being able to take a little extra time to hear our patient’s stories. One of my patients was a gentleman who was missing his left eye, left ear and left leg. His left eyelid was neatly stitched closed. He retained some hearing in his left ear. He had a prosthesis on his left leg, which I didn’t even notice until I placed my hand on his knee and felt the hard plastic underneath.


During the many years of war, land mines were planted all over the country. Innocent people during peacetime still suffer. There has been a lot of work done to dismantle the land mines in Cambodia, but my translator tells me that there are still some left in some more remote, mountainous areas especially along Cambodia’s borders. As a result of landmines, Cambodia has over 25,000 amputees one of the highest per capita in the world. HALO Trust as well as government organizations are working to dismantle mines in the 21 districts where most accidents occur. I love it when I hear of people and organizations that see a need and take action to meet it. We each have a purpose and/or gifts that uniquely qualify us to meet certain needs in this world.


This afternoon we met a family who is doing just that. They have three children with cerebral palsy and have started a rehabilitation center in Kampot for children with CP. Today they brought the children in for well child visits. When we had some down time, I went outside to visit them. I picked one and started toward her, but as I walked that way, I felt a hand reach up and pull me down. A little boy threw up his arms and reached for my neck wanting to be picked up. I picked up him and spun him around a few times and he laughed and smiled with glee. He loved to stand on his own two feet and to walk up and down the steps. The man who runs the rehab center stated that the child could not even stand and could barely move when he first came to the center. Knowing this made his smiles and his eagerness to walk around with me supporting him under his arms so much more meaningful (even though he tried to rip off my name tag and grab my face!) I am so touched by this man and his family who spend their lives taking care of and working to improve the lives of children with cerebral palsy and by the children who take joy in simple things like taking a step. It is a job that sounds romantic but in reality means carrying a heavy child in the scorching hot sun and summoning an infinite amount of patience to deal with behavioral issues.


It is so encouraging to meet people that are working to improve the lives of the people of Cambodia and to hear of organizations that are making a difference. We are blessed to come alongside them for a short time. Each of us has been given a unique skill set to meet specific needs in this world, so let's continue on our path and encourage others on theirs.

Valerie Sands, medical student

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