Kid Care | a new project helping those in need in Siem Reap, Cambodia
It’s all too easy to fall in love with Cambodia. From the wonderful people with warm, friendly smiles to amazing coastal, jungle and mountain scenery, not forgetting the amazing historical buildings, including the World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat, this country appears to have it all. I have been lucky enough to call this country home for the past eighteen months. However, unfortunately in that time, I have witnessed the dramatic economic effects of Covid-19 on a country whose main industry is tourism. With no alternative income, many more people have been caught in a cycle of poverty and need help with the basics just to survive.
In early 2020, I was fortunate to be given the opportunity to do some volunteer work, teaching resuscitation and first aid skills to staff at a wonderful charity called ABCs and Rice in Siem Reap. This charity, with director Tammy at the helm, aims to help the very poorest people; providing a much-needed free education in a country where the costs of one can be unattainable to many families. It also ensures nutritional needs are met, and when open fully before Covid restrictions, over 200 students were fed two hearty meals a day.
Providing training on resuscitation skills to the teaching staff at ABCs and Rice.
ABCs and Rice, like all schools in Cambodia, has had to adhere to government guidelines and was closed to students for long periods in 2020. Their vital work did not stop though, and a programme of providing food and other essentials for up to 100 families continued. In conjunction with the Cambodian Rice Run, a kind hearted Australian charity, ABCs and Rice has ensured that no family has been left hungry. Their weekly food packages have been a lifeline to many in these difficult times.
Siem Reap is a town heavily reliant on the tourist industry. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat has ensured a steady stream of tourists visit the city year round. So, it’s not surprising that the effects of the global pandemic have hit particularly hard here. Whole families have seen their income disappear almost overnight. Levels of poverty have risen at an alarming rate, meaning the work of charities such as ABCs and Rice is now more important than ever.
Health care at ABCs and Rice has until now been provided by visiting Western volunteers and here we see another cruel effect of Coronavirus. Covid travel restrictions affect everyone and these volunteers are no exception, resulting in ABCs being unable to offer these vital health services. Cambodian Rice Run had realised this and were keen to support a permanent health care facility, if the right staff could be found.
Was it possible that I could fill the gap? I certainly had the right experience having spent the previous fifteen months running a medical centre on a remote island off the coast of Cambodia. I had a valid visa with no plans to leave the country, so we could start to look at moving things forward.
Could we make this dream a reality? One thing was for certain, we were going to give it our best shot!
In the grounds of the school is a Portakabin, a temporary building that had been empty for some time. Structurally, it was fairly sound, but had a leaking roof and a damp, rotten floor. Cambodian Rice Run agreed to cover start-up costs and so without further ado, we were able to call the workmen in to make repairs to what would be our new medical room. Within two weeks, we had a weatherproof building, complete with electricity and a water supply. A new floor was fitted and suddenly we had a room that could be safely used to hold a clinic in.
The new roof meaning our building was fully protected against the weather.
There was a good supply of basic first aid equipment at the school already that had been kindly donated by visiting volunteers, so it was a case of sorting through and making a list of what else we would need to effectively deliver treatment. Cambodian Rice Run’s support meant we were able to go ahead and purchase these additional items. We bought a bed meaning that our patients could be comfortable whilst we cared for them. The staff at ABCs and Rice ensured that the area around our building was landscaped and one of the teachers who is also an artist, painted our new logo on the outside. In just a few short weeks, through the hard work of all involved, we had created a service to benefit those in need.
Our medical room complete with new garden
Students at ABCs and Rice come from the very poorest backgrounds; their families living in extreme poverty. Kid Care recognised this and so from the very start, we wanted to help the whole community of those associated with the school. So, after just one week of being open, we held our first outreach clinic at Veal Village. Our team of myself, the nurse, Anne, our wonderful volunteer and Pablo, tuk tuk driver, interpreter and all round nice guy arrived at the village with a box of supplies and equipment. Tammy, the director of ABCs and Rice made the introductions and we were soon checking blood pressures and giving general health advice to the villagers. A dangerously high blood pressure was identified and the lady in question was transported to a local doctor for treatment.
The “thumbs up” for a blood pressure that is fine.
It is our intention to extend these services to include a number of local villages. We hope that with interventions such as correct wound care, we can avoid potentially expensive hospital admissions for villagers. Once the school is open again with all students attending, we will carry out regular Body Mass Index clinics to identify those at risk of malnutrition. Every week, ABCs and Rice provide a food package for the families of all students and we are now able to have the medical room open providing a drop in clinic for those with a medical need.
Our nurse treating a gentleman following a traffic accident.
We feel so happy to be providing these services to those who need them. We’ve come a long way in what seems a very short time and now we look to the future. We already have one volunteer at Kid Care, the lovely Anne helps with our outreach clinics. Starting next week, Sophany, a Khmer nurse, has generously offered her services meaning we can help more people on our visits to the villages. A big thank you to both of you.
As with all charities, fundraising is the major issue for Kid Care and our team are exploring many ways to raise the money necessary to continue doing what we are doing. If you feel able to support us, please visit our Facebook page for details of how to donate,
Let’s hope that the devastating effects of the global pandemic start to reverse soon. Siem Reap is reeling and needs the tourists to return, to once again provide an income for the local people. There are many wonderful charities in this town doing amazing work to help those in need. We are proud to be a small part of this and hope to continue with our work with Kid Care Outreach Centre for many years to come.