Fancy a trip to Cambodia?
In this article, I shall attempt to give insight into the preparation to undertake a trip as a volunteer into a country that does not have the same resources and expertise which is available in most of Australia. I hope this encourages other nurses to take on the challenge and experience what it is like in parts of the world like Cambodia.
I was interested in volunteering as an ophthalmic nurse for a trip to a third world country to assist in cataract surgery. What motivated me to take on this challenge? I was inspired by the work of some of our ophthalmologists at the Eye Surgery Foundation, who volunteer their skills in third world countries such as East Timor & India, and also in the vast regions in the north of Western Australia. Timing is always a challenge in our busy lives, but the timing was good for me to go to Cambodia last September.
I saw the notice in the New South Wales Australian Ophthalmic Nurse’s Newsletter. A group called “Cambodia Vision”, which began in December 2006, was advertising for volunteers.
Cambodia Vision aims to work with small provincial towns in Cambodia, focusing on blindness prevention and basic medical healthcare, and training local medical students.
Kratie Province known locally as Kraches is located in the Northeast of Cambodia. It borders, Mondulkiri, Steng Treng and Kampong Cham provinces. Below is a map to show where we went.
To prepare for my venture I firstly joined up as a Rotary Volunteer. Initially Cambodia Vision started out independently but then as the project grew it became partners with Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS). This provided me with travel insurance and registration with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Rotary Australia is a recognised charitable organisation and they take care of the paperwork. I was required to get a medical clearance,’ Working with Children’ check, and I read and signed a” Volunteer agreement” and “Code of Conduct” for Rotary.
The cost for the trip was $2200. This included membership to rotary, airfares, hotel accommodation, all transport and food. Mr & Mrs Ly took care of everything. Mr. & Mrs. Ly are the couple who started Cambodia Vision. Mr Ly is the Chief Executive Officer of ABC Tissue in Sydney. After fleeing Cambodia from the Khmer Rouge, first to New Zealand and then onto Australia, they prospered and being the very generous couple that they are, they had not forgotten about the people back in Cambodia. Each year the team has grown and more is achieved.
The Eye Surgery Foundation generously supported the trip by donating $2,500.00 for Anaesthetic drugs and I was pleasantly surprised to receive funding for my expenses ($2,200.00) also. I used my annual leave for the time while I was off work.
When travelling to a third world country, there are recommendations for health precautions. I went to my GP and had my Tetanus, Hep B & Hep A Vaccinations and of course the anti malarial tablets. It could cost $400, but some you get back from your health fund. Amazingly I didn’t see a mozzie, let alone get bitten by one the whole time I was there. I went prepared with all sorts of insect spray, long sleeve clothing and mozzie coils.
The trip was for a total of thirteen days. I flew out of Perth and met up in Singapore with the nurses and support staff from NSW before flying onto Cambodia. Doctors and those not involved in the initial cleaning and setup followed three days later. We stayed in Phnom Penh for one night before travelling in a coach bus to pick up over two hundred boxes of supplies and then proceeded onto Kratie Province through the countryside of Cambodia.
The hotel, with air conditioned rooms, where we stayed. I was pleasantly surprised. After a long tiring day at work, we had meals prepared and a nice shower to refresh ourselves.