Cambodian Health Professionals Association of America (CHPAA) are about to embark on their tenth mission from USA to Cambodia where they are setting up shop for a week, offering free medical, surgical and dental treatment to people who otherwise cannot access care.
Earlier this year I wrote about my experience traveling to a province outside Phnom Penh with a rabble of about twelve impoverished sick people piled onto the back of a pick-up truck. The biggest success of that trip was the 32yo mother living on a canoe-sized boat with her husband and children, one of whom had drowned some months before I met her. The day I met her, one of my first volunteering with a small local organisation, I was on the riverbank with our doctor and social worker. The boat-dwelling residents heard we were there and many of them climbed the bank to meet us on the footpath. Various complaints were expressed, the most significant being this young woman who presented me with an ultrasound report written in French. I could vaguely make out that she must have gallstones. As my colleague translated to me that she was having severe bouts of acute pain and had been quoted $1000 for surgery, the woman pierced me with watchful eyes. We didn’t need to speak the same language for me to understand that she desperately hoped I could help.
That night I discovered that CHPAA were due to arrive in Cambodia for their ninth mission a few short weeks later. On the back of our crowded pick-up truck one hot February morning came this woman, her husband and their 2yo daughter. A few days later we returned home post-surgery and she was able to resume normal, if you could call it that, life again.
This short video has footage from the 2019 CHPAA mission, which I was a very small part of: CHPAA Ninth Mission to Baray Santuk
This Facebook video explains CHPAA a little more and shows the spirit underlying the honour of being able to make a small difference in places that the privileged among us can never truly perceive: The impact of Cambodia on CHPAA volunteers. The emotion and humility from volunteers touched by their experiences helping the unseen and unheard is heartening.
CHPAA undertake their tenth mission in a couple of weeks. I am not there sadly, but this year a family in Alice Springs Australia, instead of buying each other Christmas presents, donated money to me for Cambodia. Alongside some other donations offered by family and friends, I’m sending it today to my colleague who has a group of sick clients she can gather together and transport, courtesy this donation. She tells me “one man the same like <gallstone lady>” so he’s about to be cured! I look forward to hearing some more success stories of health care being made available to people who otherwise suffer and die, silent and invisible.