By Tracy Hunter | June 9, 2014

This evening we gathered together for our last team meeting.  It's hard to believe that the time has come and gone.  It is estimated that upwards of $100,000 was spent on this trip.  A question was raised regarding whether it would be more appropriate for Mercer to donate money in support of healthcare in counties such as Cambodia and Honduras, instead of "wasting" such large sums of money sending teams to those areas. Several members offered elegant responses to what seemed to be such a misinformed question.  It's so easy to count the costs of plane tickets, hotel stays, in-country transportation, medication, supplies, meals, and endless coolers of water, but there is an intangible essence to undertakings like these for which a value cannot be accessed.


The lives of future professionals have been forever changed.  Through interactions with Mercer students and staff, current and future Cambodian healthcare workers have obtained skills that no dollar could teach and have built relationships that no amount of money could buy. The Khmer people received a level of care and attention they may have never received, even if millions of dollars were sent.  Team members will return home with a new appreciation for the problem with healthcare both home and abroad, and without doubt, have seen, heard and laid hands on people and things that will inform how they use their hands to be of service to people in their future lives and careers.


It's so easy to throw money at things we don't really understand  I'm so glad Mercer has found a more responsible way to be a light in this world.  Because of this, we were given the opportunity to help some 17 hundred people, and in return, we have become different people - people who will forever carry the experience of MOM Cambodia in our hearts.  Priceless.


Angkor Wat

By Whitney Bond | June 9, 2014

Today we toured many temples and went to Angkor Wat.  The temples were very impressive.  It is so hard to imagine how they could have possibly built these temples.  Not only just moving the stone or physically building the temples, but also how much detail was carved into each wall. It was nice to see other parts of the country outside of clinic. These places are the spiritual foundation for the patient population we have been serving, so I think that it was important for us to see these places so we can understand the Cambodian people we have been serving.  These temples were built with as much dedication, hard work, and talent as many of the cathedrals I have seen in Italy.


One of my favorite parts of today was when I got to ride an elephant! Everyone loved it.  Then we got to feed the elephants some pineapples.  The elephant ate the whole fruit part of the pineapple in one bite, and then dropped the top part of the pineapple on the ground.  Those elephants sure loved that pineapple.  I have never seen an elephant in person. It was so big yet so gentle.  It was truly a gentle giant.


Back to the City

By Jane Oh | June 7, 2014

Today we left Kampot in the morning. I sat in the front of the bus and could see the road ahead and everything our bus driver was honking at. Honking is very common in Cambodia. I think it's a warning sound for the bicyclists and motorists that we're coming to prevent accidents. During our classes in Henry county prior to coming to Cambodia, we learned that motor accidents are one of the top causes of death here. I am not surprised after being in a "tuk-tuk" during rush hour. A tuk tuk is like a taxi. The streets are chaos. Motorists drive on sidewalks and drive so close to everyone. There is no waiting in lines. Occasionally some motorists will drive on the opposite side of the road or the sidewalk too. Children and babies ride motor bikes with their parents and siblings. In clinic, the majority of people had a chief complaint of blurry vision, watery and irritated eyes. We gave out a lot of Visine, artificial tears, glasses and sunglasses. Thank you everyone for the donations! Sometimes I can't figure out why our bus driver is honking... But it was fun to sit in the very front and watch the scenery change from leaving behind the countryside and into the city again. It's different being back in Phnom Penh. My roommate, Sakina, and I went to a nice restaurant where it seemed like a foreigner spot. I didn't expect to see so many foreigners in Cambodia! Most of the children speak English very well. Many sell bracelets or ask for money. Some will challenge you to a game of Rock Paper Scissors if you say no. It is heartbreaking at times just seeing some of the things here. Next we went to the central market where there's shopping everywhere you look. Some of our team members got some awesome things for great prices! I miss kampot already and the people we met. We said our goodbyes to our interpreters and got in our pictures to keep good memories. Tomorrow we will fly to Siem Riep where Angkor Wat is and we get to ride elephants before we head home. I am really excited to explore more of Cambodia and sad to know it is coming to an end.


Discovering the Story of Cambodia through Its People

By Justine Phifer | June 05, 2014

Today was a hectic, but great day in clinic.  We saw 247 patients on our second day at the "blue church" clinic that is located in a rural area surrounded by rice fields and cows.  It has been neat to see how efficient our clinics are run and how comfortable everyone has become helping out in any area it is needed.  I have enjoyed continuously refining my history & physical exam skills and have enjoyed the challenge of not relying on lab tests, imaging studies, and extensive medical records to make a diagnosis.  It really is true that if you simply listen and get a good history from a patient, you should be able to narrow your differential diagnosis greatly.  I had a patient today with a severe connective tissue disease that has made his fingers and toes essentially shrivel into a fist like formation and they have become immobile.  He had never received treatment, but this progressive disease has made him unable to work.  We suspected he may have scleroderma, and provided him with symptomatic treatment, but did put in a referral for him to go to one of the only local pro bono hospitals in the country.  Despite this patient's grim prognosis and obvious pain, he explained his symptoms in a calm and positive manner.  While I wished there was more I could do for him, it was humbling that he we so grateful for the little care we were able to provide for him.


I have learned a lot about the Cambodian culture through our travels within the country, from the places and hospitals we have visited, and through our patients and our Cambodian interpreters.  I had a discussion with one of the interpreters I have worked with in clinic and learned about his family and what life was like for him as a child growing up here.  He lived in a village of about 200 people and was a young boy when Cambodia's civil war was still in full force.  His would worry about his family's safety, especially when his father would go into the forest at night to fight anyone who was attempting to invade his village.  He used to get sick a lot because he only had small amounts of rice to eat,  and had close friends die of things such as untreated malaria or Dengue Fever.  Now, his father is a rice farmer and his mother sells vegetables in Phnom Pehn.  They work very hard to be able to pay for him to attend medical school and achieve his dream of becoming a doctor and serving the Cambodian people.  With such a devastating history of cruelty by the Khmer Rouge followed by continuous years of civil war, so many people I have met -within our clinics and out - still seem to be able to be positive, smile, and be motivated to rebuild their country that has so unfortunately been destroyed in front of many of their own eyes. 


On another note, I ended the day with going on a boat ride down the Mekong River to see fire flies in the night.  The boat ride was very relaxing after a long day, and we did a short hike to an area with multiple fruit trees that housed many beautiful fire flies that glowed and looked like flickering Christmas lights.  It was a wonderful way to end one of our last nights in Kampot.


I'm very sad our time in Cambodia is coming to an end.  I am going to greatly miss our clinics, the way we have gotten to practice medicine without endless technology, the delicious bowls of $2.00 fried noodles, and most of all,  I will miss the peaceful and kind nature of the Cambodian people.


Seeing How it All Fits Together

By Melina McSwiggen | June 05, 2014

My experience in Cambodia has definitely strengthened my desire to become a primary care physician. Working with the medical students and medical school faculty has taught me so much about practicing medicine, and has made me even more excited and determined to pursue my journey to medical school. In addition, this trip has made me appreciate the collaborative effort of a healthcare team by giving me the opportunity to work in the areas of pharmacy and nursing.  Today was a fast-paced day during which we saw over 240 patients. During the first part of the day, I worked in the pharmacy for my first time. Never having considered pharmacy as my calling, this was my first time delving into the art of  filling prescriptions and counseling patients. At first, I was a bit uncomfortable, especially because I do not know Khmer or the technical details about the usage of various medications.  With a lot of practice and a little bit of help, I finally found a rhythm and enjoyed getting to independently interact with patients and be a part of their care. It is often difficult to ensure the patient understands how to take their medications, which is why our work would be nearly impossible without our interpreters, who write instructions in Khmer and make sure the patient or a family member of the patient understands the instructions.


I also got to work the intake table during the second part of the day, which involves asking the patient basic questions about their healthcare and why they came to our clinic today. I enjoyed getting to see all of the patients who walked through the door, and hearing their stories. Even just asking the patient questions makes a difference in their life. From making a crying baby smile to sharing laughs with an elderly man or woman, working the intake table is always rewarding. Today was especially rewarding when a patient came up to me after they received their prescription from the pharmacy to thank me. I was surprised, but humbled and grateful that the simple act of truly listening to a patient can make such a difference.

Although I had a break from working with the providers today, I enjoyed every minute of my experience. Without all parts of the healthcare team, a patient cannot be fully cared for.


Treating People, Not Just Disease

By Alex Kalil | June 04, 2014

Words cannot express how meaningful a mission trip experience can be. As we discussed various issues in our meeting this evening, Mrs. Bina asked us to reflect upon how this experience has shaped our views of medicine and our future. I guess I hadn’t thought about it, although 200 patients a day will keep your mind occupied, but this experience has put me leaps and bounds ahead in my education and experience. In Cambodia, I have learned that being a nurse does not only mean administering medications or taking vital signs, it is about caring for our patients as a whole, as a human being. With every smile, kiss, and hug from a patient I recognized that these are men and women with bodies just like mine who need love, support and friendship.

In our clinic session today, I worked in the pharmacy, and it meant the world to people when I showed a simple smile, many had no idea what I was saying in English, but my hand gestures and inviting smile, and maybe my scrub top with whales and fish, made them trust me. Trust is the greatest gift that a healthcare professional can ask for.


The True Face of Need

By Hillary Hendley | June 04, 2014

We only have 2 days of clinic left. I was definitely struggling to have that life changing experience while being over here, because sometimes I feel so helpless as an undergrad, but today really struck a cord. I saw a lady with stage 4 breast cancer. This huge fungal looking infected ulcer covered the whole right side of her breast. I knew she was going to die in the next 6 months. It absolutely broke my heart. I was trying so hard to fight back the tears. She knew it was cancer and non-curable, but we didn't tell her it was going to kill her so she wouldn't lose hope. We referred her to Sonja Kill Hospital for counseling, because the cancer was so far along that even the best doctors in America wouldn't be able to do anything. But she wouldn't have been able to afford it anyways. It saddens me because so many Cambodians can't afford the most simple medicine that can cure their easily treatable illnesses so they've lived with pain for months or years and we can just buy the medicine over the counter and don't think much about it. The lady with the breast cancer looked at me with these huge, dark, hopeful, and kind eyes, ones that I will never forget. She walked away from us with tears in her eyes, but she will definitely never leave my thoughts and memories. Since I was having a hard time finding my place and reason, God definitely sent her to me for a reason. My heart went out to her and it definitely confirmed that I still want to go into the medical field. This trip is very beneficial because I've only shadowed a few doctors, but here I've been able to see skin diseases, cancer, heart murmurs, GERD, eye problems, broken bones, kids, elderly, middle age, the sick, and the not so sick. I've learned a lot from the medical students about so many illnesses and this trip has definitely sparked my interest in other fields that I never thought I wanted to work in.


Simple Gestures, Deep Connections

By Hannah Gayle Batten | June 03, 2014

"Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for The Lord thy God is with thee withersoever thou goest." Joshua 1:9


Today was day six of clinic and we saw approximately 150 patients. This was the last clinic held at the Korean church. My heart was somewhat heavy because after spending two days and a church service with the pastor, his family, and his church family, I also felt as though I was a part of their family. And, today I would have to say goodbye to these wonderful people who let us into their church and their hearts. Not being able to communicate much with these patients has created a greater reliance on things that cannot be said such as the simplistic yet essential values of eye contact, a smile, a laugh, and a touch. Today I spent all of my time in the clinic working with medical school students and I was able to rely on these values, whether it be listening to someones heart or taking their blood pressure. I have found the sweetest and purest beauty in these patients by looking into each one of their eyes, physically touching them, and hearing their story. I have never met a people so grateful and appreciative of our time spent with them, and I am so grateful for having the opportunity to meet these amazing people.


I expected that this medical mission would be a life-changing experience; although, I did not expect to care so deeply for these people--for every single patient and every single person I have met along the way. I knew these people would touch my heart, but I did not know that they would touch me to the very depths of my soul. These patients leave with a little piece of us and it's hard to say "joom-reup-leah," goodbye, when you know that you will never see them again. But I am comforted in knowing that I am leaving with a piece of every single person. I will carry them with me; each and everyone will forever remain in my thoughts, prayers, and heart.


Two-way Impact

By Kaycie Eubanks | June 03, 2014

So, today in clinic was much slower than normal. When I say slow, I mean we still saw over 100 patients, but not the 200 numbers we've been seeing. Throughout the day we had some very interesting cases. We saw various types of rashes, abscesses, lipomas, and heart murmurs just to name of few. Some of these may not seem too exciting, but they are when you do not get to see it in the hospital setting every day. We discovered really loud murmurs and rashes we had never encountered before. It continues to amaze me how happy and thankful these people are when they leave the clinic. No matter how much or how little we do for them, they are all equally grateful. Every single person walks out with a smile on their face. I truly believe they are impacting our lives more than we are theirs. Not only this, but we are also learning so much from each other and the different disciplines. We are developing more and more respect for what each other does in his/her field and understanding more than what is just on the surface. I'm amazed every day at how well we are working as a team and how everyone is both willing to learn but also eager to teach. No one person is running the show. It truly surprises me by how much hands on experience we are getting: more than could ever be taught in a hospital setting. One thing they teach us in our individual fields is learning cultural competence. I cannot think of a better way to do this than actually immersing yourself in a culture and digging deep to understand the past and how it is impacting the present and future. I've been impressed not only by my own abilities and knowledge, but every one else's as well. Though our work here is not yet completed, I can already say that Mercer on Mission has definitely changed my life. It has taught me cultural competency as well as the importance of interdisciplinary teamwork. I have already gained memories, experiences, and knowledge which I will carry throughout my nursing career. I can't wait to return to the states and see how this trip has impacted the way I care for patients in the hospital and interact with other members of the health care team. I definitely am already a changed future nurse because of this experience. I'm 100% positive every one else here can say the same for their prospective fields as well. 😊


Uncommon Kindness Common in Kampot Province

By Timothy Walker | June 02, 2014

It felt good to get back into operating the clinic today.  Our weekend break in the small tourist town of Kep was very much appreciated by all in our group, but I know that I wasn't the only one who was looking forward to returning to Kampot.  This place has become somewhat of an anchor for us here.  I can't say enough about the staff or the people in the province in general.  On Thursday before we left for Kep my phone fell out of my pocket in a restaurant and the owner took the time to figure out that it was mine and also where I was staying and had it delivered by motorcycle back to my accommodations that night at his own expense in terms of time and transport.  I know that there are good and bad people everywhere, but in a country so stricken by poverty, where much of the population lives on less than $2 US a day, I was truly humbled by that gesture.


Things like that make it truly a joy to serve these people, and today was no exception.  I spent most of my morning taking vital signs of patients as they came in.  It's good practice for me and also it is important in screening them so that their examination with our practitioners can be more focused.  I also appreciate how the task involves touch, which establishes a physical connection between ourselves and the people who we mean to serve.  It also builds trust.  In talking with some of our instructors about the incident with my phone, I discovered that people here know who we are and what we're doing and are appreciative of it.  I want nothing more than to contribute to that as we go into our second week of clinic.


Exploring Cambodia's Natural Beauty

By Khaled Kashlan | May 31, 2014

I had a memorably incredible day today. Most of us woke up at around 8:30 and had breakfast in our resort.  The food consisted of both Khmer and western food.  I personally had an omelet with some freshly baked bread.  The best part about breakfast though was the amazing view we had. The restaurant is placed on top of a hill and overlooks the Gulf of Thailand.  After breakfast, the majority of the class including me went to Rabbit Island, which is located about 2 miles away from the mainland.  There were many things to do there but most just relaxed, got a massage, and laid on the beach.  I personally wanted to see what the island had to offer so with one of my classmates I went on a hike around the island.  I was awed with the wide variety of animals and plants living on the island.  We ended up going to the other side of the island and discovered a small fishing village with a population of probably 20, which was the highlight of my day.  The people were very friendly and were not bothered with us exploring their land.  We hung out in the village for probably 20 minutes and observed the fishers’ daily routines.  We stayed on Rabbit Island until 3:00, and when we got back to our resort we were so exhausted.  I ended up taking a nap for the rest of the day.  We then had dinner at the resort and the view was even better than it was during breakfast.  The sun was setting and the sky projected magnificent colors. The food was great too!  All in all, today was a relaxing day and I feel so refreshed and ready to tackle another hectic but fulfilling week of mission work.


Struggling with our Limitations

By John V. John | May 28, 2014

Day 3 of clinic was very hectic.  It was HOT and there were so many people already waiting for us as we pulled up to the church.  Everyone needed our help but we knew the disease states of some could only be handled symptomatically because the lack of medical supplies.  In the morning, I had to face the reality of such an instance as I was presented with a 69 year old man who was recently diagnosed with leukemia.  Neither the patient nor his daughter knew the actual type of leukemia, but it would still be irrelevant to us as we don't have such medications for such a disease.  It was tough to tell the patient that we had nothing to offer him but symptomatic relief as he had no other outstanding complaints.  We were able to at least give the patient some multivitamins for his malnutrition and ibuprofen for abdominal pain because of the splenomegaly.  For the most part, it was hard for me to communicate through a translator what exactly I wanted to tell the patient. There is always something lost in translation.  It was very memorable experience for me, and the gratefulness that the patient exhibited was even more memorable.


Routine Care Not So Routine For Some

By Greg Barbier | May 29, 2014

Today we had clinic at the Korean church we visited Sunday. The patients we saw were amazingly grateful as always. We were able to see a very interesting patient- a child with a congenital heart malformation that has been untreated. This was an amazing experience as these disorders are corrected very quickly in the USA... This  child we saw was 8.  We were able to refer her to a hospital for further care and hopefully surgery, as her disorder will likely be lethal. In addition to this patient, we had many patients who presented as families for checkups and routine screening. We were able to see a child with cerebral palsy and many routine findings such as hypertensions and diabetes.  Overall, it was another great day helping people who receive little healthcare otherwise. Tomorrow we will tour a local hospital. It will be interesting to see how a hospital in another country operates and give us a greater understanding of who we are referring our patients to.


First Impressions

By Sakina Mahama | May 26, 2014

On the way to clinic this morning I could not help but notice myself slowly descend from my high of excitement as we passed through the city's local market. I had been looking forward to this moment since the day I learned I was one of the few nursing students that had been selected to join this team for this medical mission. Blessed, eager to learn, and even more eager to serve, the sight of the market brought pity to my heart. The best way to describe what I saw is "organized chaos"; so many people, fruit and food stands, mopeds and tuk-tuk's traveling in every which direction. As we made our way through and onto a clear road, my heart was given a small respite from the harsh reality of the hard life of Cambodians that most may not see. There were miles and miles of rice crop fields that were different shades of green; simplistically beautiful.


After driving for what seemed like one hour, we finally arrived at a little church in a remote village. There waited a rather large group of people ranging from infants to adults. It was only 8 am and the sun was already offering too much heat that I deemed unnecessary for that hour, yet some of the locals came dressed to impress in a long sleeve shirt and jeans. While working that day we saw around 140 patients, and even before they could be seen, the patients showed me that even a small smile can help in a big way. I noticed how a young girl and an older woman, who were not together, watched me intently for that entire hour before it was finally their turn. The younger girl girl brought joy to my heart because after trying to introduce myself in the khmer language, she let out a light laugh and huge smile saying how she waited one whole year for us, followed by "I love you".  I was shocked because not only did she know English, she spoke it quite well, and I had yet to do or give her anything!  For the most part of the day, she hung out around the clinic after she had been treated, and every time I looked at her, I caught her eyes on me and a beautiful smile on her face.


I also had an older lady, she on the other hand could not speak any English. When she approached my station for me to take her vital signs, I said one khmer word, "johm-riab-sua", which means hello, and I must have said it well enough for her to believe I really knew her language because she immediately started speaking to me in khmer at about one mile per minute. After being saved by Dr. Huang, who is part of our pharmacy faculty and also Cambodian, I completed my vital sign assessment and I learned that while this little old lady was talking the entire time during her assessment, she was actually praying that many blessings be bestowed upon me......... including the blessings of many kids.


I must say that today was a very rewarding experience. I was asked if there was anything that I had to sacrifice to be here, and even though I missed the only high school graduation of both of my younger sisters, both myself and my family know that the sacrifice was made long before I was born by Christ Jesus Himself. 2 Corinthians 5:15 states "He died for everyone so that those who receive His new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them." I must say that today was a great day, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to serve and learn from these beautiful people.


Care in Spite of Challenges

By Kieth Reeves | May 27, 2014

Today was the second day of working with patients in the area surrounding Kampot. We arrived early and started seeing patients pretty quickly. Thankfully we did because it was an extremely busy day with almost 200 total patients coming in. The Cambodian people were always so grateful to have us see them and to just talk to them they really do appreciate everything we do.


Even when we know what we are prescribing is not going to cure them and we explain that to them they are still just so grateful for the experience and the caring we provide that they leave with a big smile on their face. There are also some difficult situations with patients and not having the drugs and equipment to handle them is straining. For example one of my patients came in with a blood pressure of 200/100 and we could only send him home with a beta blocker and told him to come in tomorrow for a follow-up. To send a patient like that home was a challenge but that was normal for him. I am hoping the beta blocker makes a difference in his blood pressure. We see a lot of patients throughout the day but all of them touch us in some way. In the good and the bad we are experiencing a culture that is completely foreign to us and we are embracing so that we can better serve these people. We are limited in what we can treat and limited in what we can prescribe but what these people teach us about their lives, and about ourselves is limitless. Like I said this is only the second day of our clinic and we still have so much more to see.


Hard Work... Teamwork

By Chris Rogers | May 27, 2014

Today was one of the best experiences I have had since I've been in medical school. Yesterday was kinda of confusing because it was the first day and I didn't really know what I was doing or how everything worked. Today on the other hand was extremely rewarding. After having a day to "get my feet wet" yesterday I knew how clinic worked and could really enjoy treating patients. I got to see some pathology that I had never seen before and actually take care of some sick patients. I was extremely excited to get to take care of some acutely ill children. I am going into pediatrics and experiences like today will help me so much in my future practice of childhood medicine. Today really confirmed in me that I want to spend my life caring for sick children. It really was a great day that was full of hard work and team work.


Our First Day of Clinic

By Maggie Brown | May 26, 2014

The start of a new experience is always a spectrum of emotions. There is excitement for exposure to new ideas and learning, but there are also fears and anxieties of the unknown. Today being our first day of clinics, we all were faced with highs and lows and everything in between. It almost felt like the morning before a huge test; all of the Mercer students and interpreters piled in the bus going over Khmer and English phrases that weren't understood and bouncing signs, symptoms, and treatments for different diseases that we might see throughout the day. We arrived at a remote church about 45 minutes outside of Kampot and started setting up camp.


Patients were already in several rows waiting for us to get set up. I couldn't tell if the students or the patients were more excited to get started. Khaled and I, along with an interpreter, began to see patients. It was such an overwhelming morning with all of the nervousness of diagnosing patients, the gratitude and love that our patients poured out on us, and the excitement of getting to do what you so passionately feel called to do.


Throughout the morning we were able to treat and teach patients with things that we so easily take for granted in the US.


We were able to treat everything from worms to GERD to chronic inflammation to scabies. It was a fulfilling day for clinicians, both personally and professionally. We were able to see what it's like to not have all of the medical technology that is available in our hospitals and home and how frustrating it can be when the proper education isn't available for the people who need it the most. We poured out love to the people that we encountered and were met by just as much, probably even more, love right back.


I am so grateful for this opportunity to be in such a beautiful country, serving such gracious people, and working with people that have become my family. I feel very humbled to be able to pursue my passion and share it with those around me. This will be an experience that I will carry with me both in my medical career and personally.


Trilingual Church Service and Getting Ready for Clinic

By Anna Schwanbeck | May 25, 2014

Today we went to a Korean church service and they gave the lesson in Korean, Khmer, and English languages. After the service, the church members brought in various fruits for us to eat and talked to us about their culture. It was very fascinating to hear how well they are able to communicate in several languages. After lunch, we took a few hours to count out all of the suitcases of medicine we brought over for the clinics. It was a very tiring and long process, but we did well as a group to finish it. Later, the pharmacy students will sort the medication by which medications we will need to take to each clinic every day. We also got to practice with the interpreters today. So far they have been eager to learn from us and help in any way that they can. I am excited about starting clinics tomorrow and have high hopes for our group of students!


Church & Clinic Prep

By Kellie Vickery | May 25, 2014

This morning was my opportunity to experience a Korean missionary church, which was something completely new for me. I wasn't really sure what to expect. Once we arrived, I took of my shoes to enter the building for church. I learned a quick lesson about taking if my shoes. When taking off my shoes, I will now be sure to find a shady area to leave my shoes because when I returned, my shoes were quite warm on my feet! Nevertheless, the service was really interesting. Because Pastor Soung was a Korean missionary, he spoke in Korean, Khmer and English for us! Everyone was very grateful for our visit to the church. Interacting with the church members was fun! Their smiling faces made me feel very welcomed and appreciated. They took pictures of us and gave us plates of fruit to eat before we left. My favorite was the mangastein, which I am positive I just misspelled that so I apologize. All in all, I really enjoyed this morning's adventure.


After lunch, we had full afternoon of clinic prep. We unloaded all of our medical supplies, medications and children's toys, organized everything into sections and began our afternoon adventure! We spent over 5 hours inventorying and dividing up medications to carry for clinic use. As a pharmacy student, I was mainly in charge of creating an inventory for us to keep records throughout the trip. I wasn't exactly sure how to start organizing the medications. However, with the help of faculty we were able to divide up the medications as needed and create a running list of medications. We spent hours counting, bagging and labeling but finally, after some pretty awesome teamwork we conquered it all! I was somewhat hesitant asking people to "count these and do that" but I learned today that we have a great group of folks here. Everyone was more than willing to go above and beyond to help us organize. Seeing everyone work so well together this early on is very exciting! I'm looking forward to working and learning with one another in clinic which starts bright and early in the morning!


A Heavy Day to Get Focused

By Timothy Walker | May 23, 2014

Our first full day in Cambodia was just that: full.  It began early for all of us, although some earlier than others.  We all experienced various degrees of jet lag and woke up at different times accordingly.  My day personally began around 4 o'clock in the morning, although not by design.  Since that was the time that I ended up awake, though, I decided  to make the most of it.  I brushed up on my Khmer in the early hours until it was time to go up to the roof for breakfast.  The view was wonderful; I could see the city waking up and I felt like I was a part of it.  Breakfast was excellent and I used to fuel to go explore my surroundings.  With my roommate John in tow, we set out on the town in the early morning to exercise with the people.  All along the Mekong River, which runs along the main road in the capital of Phnom Pehn, where we stay, there is a public boulevard where many people gather to exercise in groups, walk or run or utilize the public fitness equipment.  The equipment itself is nothing terribly fancy, but we both managed to get a good workout in after running fora bit along the river.  I was nice to participate in something that the people of the city were themselves doing.  I felt like we belonged in some small way.


Our day as a group began in earnest when we departed for a tour of the royal palace.  We learned a great deal about the current political system in Cambodia as well as how it was historically.  It was wonderful to marvel at the artfulness and creativity of the Cambodian people.  Later in the day, we also went to a museum which imparted a good deal of knowledge about the influence that Buddhism and  Hinduism have had on the Cambodian people both in terms of their culture as well as their art.  Along the way, we also took time out to enjoy some delicious Cambodian food for lunch.  It really is amazing just how much a simple plate of food can give context to a day's worth of history and culture presented by a guide and experienced first hand. 


Later in the day, we got down to the tough business of understanding what it was that happened in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge.  We visited a site known as the Killing Fields which was a prison camp dedicated to the systematic execution of those deemed to be enemies of the Khmer Rouge.  We learned that these enemies were not just adults suspected of treason or sedition, but also their wives and children.  The Khmer Rouge believed in a philosophy of destroying the threat "at the root,"which translated to the brutal murder of over 1.7 million people in all during their reign from 1975 to 1979.


As if this were not sobering enough,we then set out to visit a special facility designed for those deemed to be most threatening to the Khmer Rouge regime, those who remained communists, but sided with Russia and Vietnam over a more Maoist and pro-China leaning.  These prisoners were kept in absolutely inhumane conditions, tortured in order to extract intelligence as well as confessions, and finally they were executed for their supposed crimes.  We know of this because the agents of the Khmer Rouge were very meticulous in the documentation of their work in order to demonstrate their loyalty to the regime. Standing inside those cramped cells for just a moment and seeing the bloodstains still on the floor really drove home the magnitude of their suffering in a way that simply reading about it cannot.


Finally, as a release valve, we returned to the banks of the river and enjoyed a rich and delicious dinner meal.  After that, we shopped around at an outdoor evening market and then continued to explore Phnom Pehn for the remainder of the evening.  It was a heavy day with very sharp contrasts of joy and laughter interspersed with moments of deep reflection.  Overall, I definitely believe that I myself as well as my teammates are much more focused for the clinical work which is about to begin shortly.  I am cautiously eager to meet the new challenges that lie ahead.