Eleanor Fitzpatrick - Public Health in Cambodia
The Public Health project has been an amazing experience and we have achieved so much in such a short amount of time.
The day I started, our coordinator Casey and the other volunteers had taken a lady to the VI eye clinic to be checked after bringing her from a province called Mittapeap after doing home visits. After that day the elderly lady who had been declared blind in one eye and half blind in the other, had regained her vision and was so ecstatic about the result. After originally needing assistance to see where she was walking, she greeted us the next day so happily and explained that she could see all our faces and ahead of her clearly. It was already such a great result that I knew that this programme was going to be brilliant.
Volunteering in Cambodia
In the beginning we were gradually getting first aid kits together for 11 kindergartens and distributing them to all the kindergartens as we visited each for basic health checks. In each kit there was an explanation in both Khmer and English for both the teachers and volunteers with directions of use for each item. Going to all the kindergartens was so much fun as we were always so warmly greeted by 30 or so smiling faces saying ‘hello teacher’.
In the health checks for the kindergarten children we could check their skin for cuts or rashes, check their eyes, take temperatures and sometimes help clean their teeth. We would mostly treated the children for cuts, high temperatures, coughs and colds that we could effectively improve with everything provided in the first aid kits. Usually we would then play with them for a while after which was always so much fun.
In most of the afternoons we did home visits in the area of the kindergarten where we were able to provide basic health care and refer people to hospital or health clinics that had more significant issues that we could not treat without them seeing a doctor. Therefore we would provide transport for those willing to go and also reassess people in the later weeks that required monitoring. We also had times where we would go to the office to enter notes on all the people we saw so we could easily track their progress and what they needed when we would go out to see them again.
It has been very interesting as one day is so different to the next as we visited many different provinces across Phnom Penh. We also spent some days out at KohDach Island visiting kindergartens and doing home visits which was great to see a very different area out of the city. I have learnt so much through the incredible guidance of Casey and in such a short amount of time. By the fourth week I was a lot more confident in recognizing peoples’ problems, taking blood pressure and being able to treat them effectively or determine what clinic they needed to be taken to.
It has been such a rewarding experience and I am so grateful to have had this opportunity to be welcomed into the homes of Khmer people and to leave them seeing a big smile on their faces. We have also been able to provide continuity of care by outreaching to these impoverished communities and to successfully improve quality of life for so many.