Mirroring Me

It’s essential that in life, you see yourself reflected in other peoples’ stories….”  (Oprah Winfrey)

Oprah is talking about her need, as a little black girl in America, to find people who “kinda looked like me”, at a time when there were no black people in high profile public roles to model for her, who she could be and what her potential was.  Her quote is important for those growing up and living without the privileges that others of us take for granted.  I’ve often had this thought for indigenous children in Central Australia who learn from birth in many subtle but intense ways, that they are less worthy than others in their community.  Yet Oprah’s quote is equally and conversely relevant for those of us living with often-unseen privilege.  To see ourselves in that little black girl, or in any number of others with a different identity, perpetuates our own humanity and potential.

The difference between my networks in New Zealand, Australia and other wealthy countries and my networks in Cambodia, is a disparity that is difficult to articulate.  When Cambodians talk about their aspirations, their focus is more likely to relate to more basic facets of life.  Physiological experiences such as hunger and shelter are not uncommon topics of conversation.  In contrast, my New Zealand friends are much more likely to aspire towards a winter trip to the ski slopes, an overseas holiday or wondering about their next career move.  At no time in more than twenty years of nursing in England and Australia, did a patient ever claim to have gone hungry to pay for a medical appointment.  Last week when I was informed via translation by a patient’s wife, that “we sold everything including our rice, and contacted all of our relatives to source the money so that we could pay for the transportation to attend our appointment”, it was a commonplace Cambodian anecdote.

It is so hard to raise money for people who have no money.  When you look at GoFundMe, there are funeral, memorial and animal medical funds which have raised many thousands of dollars for causes that are human and animal, dead and alive, in the wealthy world.  I wonder at the comparison with the $1,000 so far raised with great difficulty for Sokum, a 20yo young woman who will die without the heart surgery she needs but cannot access without private funds of US$6,000.  I remember being 20yo very well, living a productive and happy life in London on the other side of the world from my home.  I was safe and secure, had I needed health care it was available to me, my potential was unexceptional and being realised as I assumed it would and should be.  Yet I now appreciate that it was pure fluke of birth, that at the age of twenty this was my experience.  It is equally pure chance that this 20 year old, who could just as easily have been me, will die because the equivalent of the funds I spent getting myself to London at her age, are unavailable for her survival.

There is still hope that we will raise enough money for Sokum in time.  Some very kind people are involved in helping with fundraisers but it seems a long way to go with limited time due to her deteriorating health.  Some have expressed that they don’t want to donate through GoFundMe, and we are happy to receive the money privately as well (contact me directly for options).  Anything donated will go directly to Sokum and all donors will receive a personal acknowledgement and progress report(s).  The below photographs are shared with Sokum’s permission.  I think they show well, that you don’t have to give a big donation to make a big difference.

The family home
The family kitchen
Sokum and her husband at home earlier this week

2 thoughts on “Mirroring Me

  1. A dollar goes so much further in Cambodia, just a few dollars does so much more good than if we spent it on ourselves. I hope to hear you reached your goal and that Sokum gets to live a healthy life.

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  2. When I think about her really bad prognosis if she doesn’t receive surgery in coming weeks, I can feel the panic this family must be feeling. I so hope that the goal can be reached quickly.

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