My Friend Theresa

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Theresa is your stereotypical, old retired nurse with a heart to serve.  In April she will celebrate her 65th birthday in a little village in rural Cambodia.  On her retirement, eight years ago she came to Cambodia, leaving behind two grown sons and three grandkids, where she has served in medical outreach missions.  However, recently she felt called to move alone to a village to set up a medical clinic and she lives now in a room provided for her in a church building.  It took a while for a single, white woman to be accepted there but she found a route into the homes.  When curious children began hanging around, she started treating them for lice.  The mother’s were soon delighted to know that endlessly picking the lice out of hair was not the only option.  They are now open to hear much more of her wisdom and 63 of them were in church last Sunday morning. 

I met Theresa as she was preparing for her move and was able to provide her with many contacts and resources that I had already developed.  I was able to spend an afternoon with her on Thursday and we look forward to working together to  understand the reality of the lives of the rural women and families in this country.

Dr Vathiny

For about a month,I have been trying unsuccessfully to contact the Executive Director of an organization the provides a large part of the primary women’s health care and education throughout the countryOn Monday morning I simply showed up in the hopes of setting up an appointment for later in the week.  In typical Cambodian style, I was immediately served coffee and several people apologized for the fact that it would take about ten minutes for her to free her schedule in order to meet with me.  Dr Vathiny and I spent several hours together as she shared her heart for the needs of the women of her country and her frustration over the fact that her mandate is limited to providing services related to reproductive health.  Although they have developed some great resources in these areas,  she does not have the resources to provide other basic health education.  Her staff also recognize that there is a huge need for psychological, emotional and spiritual counselling but even she herself has had no training in this area.  She pleaded for help from Trans World Radio to meet the needs of families and communities of her country.

Walking through Phnom Pehn we often saw older, white males escorting young Cambodian girls on the streets – obviously sex tourists – and were angered and embarrassed to be white.  My heart just about broke when Dr Vathiny apologized for the women of her country who allow white men from the West to take advantage of them. Having been victims for so much of their recent histroy, they are the ones who feel ashamed.

 Rainbow Bridge

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These are some of the kids I met at the Military Hospital on Friday.  The war is over and part of the hospital now has another purpose: an AIDs hospice for children. There are eight thousand children with HIV/AIDs in Phnom Penh, and this project is able to help 90 of them. It is funded entirely by donations from a church in Hong Kong and the 25 year old single fellow, Huy, who runs the program has no medical training or education. He does this because there is a need and his heart is burdened.  The kids get food, a safe place to stay, healthcare, education and people who love them and teach them the love God, even if the surroundings are pretty rough.  I have to admit that after being mauled all morning by 90 needy little tykes I was pretty sure that I had been exposed to every germ known to man and was plenty ready for a shower. I wondered who was meeting the needs of all the rest, and what kinds of conditions they lived in.

This is just the tip of a mountain of problems in this devastated country.

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