From 1st March to 3rd March 2019, Tzu Chi Cambodia worked together with Tzu Chi medical volunteers from Singapore, Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Laos, France, and the United States, to conduct a large-scale free clinic at Prey Kabas Referral Hospital in Takeo Province, Cambodia. Specialties offered by the clinic included internal medicine, surgery, gynecology, dentistry, Chinese medicine, and ophthalmology.
Most of the residents in Takeo Province are farmers, who derive very little income from farm work. In 1994, Tzu Chi held a rice and rice seeds distribution in the province. 25 years later, Tzu Chi volunteers once again stepped onto this land to hold a free clinic and rice distribution for the locals, thereby continuing the cycle of Great Love.
On 28th February 2019, the day before the free clinic, 22 Tzu Chi volunteers from Taiwan and Singapore and 10 members from Cambodia’s Techo Voluntary Youth Doctor Association (TYDA) participated in a ceremony for the donation of medical equipment. The ceremony was held at TYDA’s headquarters and the medical equipment, which were donated by kind people from and Tzu Chi recycling points in Singapore, included wheelchairs, electric beds, walking aids, and various medical tools.
Returning to Takeo to help needy local residents
“Today, on behalf of our nation, the county government and the local residents, I thank Tzu Chi (for its help),” said Pich Sohporn, a member of the parliament, expressing his sincere gratitude to Tzu Chi at the clinic’s opening ceremony.
More than an hour before the free clinic began, some villagers had already arrived at the venue. They were guided by volunteers to queue up in order, and each of them was given a number. Due to limited seats, some of the patients had to sit on the floor. Everyone followed the volunteers’ instructions to get to the right medical department for the treatment they required.
Tzu Chi volunteer in Cambodia, Hu Mei Ling, led the villagers to do some simple and relaxing morning exercises while they were waiting for their turn to see a doctor.
Hu shared, “The local volunteers were very motivated after holding the free clinic last year. They aim to organise two more free clinics in 2019, to benefit the needy villagers as there are really a lot of people who are suffering from illnesses. Many of them started with minor ailments, which gradually worsened into major health conditions, because they could not afford medical care. We want to treat the patients holistically and care for their body and mind, instead of simply treating diseases. Apart from giving them medical treatment, we want to educate them to take care of their health and body, as this will benefit them and others as well.”
The healing hands of skilful surgeons
Sroy Vy was born with his middle finger and ring finger webbed together. Although the condition did not cause any apparent inconvenience for him, Sroy still hoped to have a pair of normal-looking hands. Due to their lack of medical knowledge, his relatives and friends believed that the separation of his fingers via surgery would affect his vision. Therefore, 56-year-old Sroy had never seen a doctor to treat his condition. Having a pair of normal-looking hands seemed like an unattainable dream to him.
Sroy’s heart was ignited with hope when he learned that “doctors from overseas” were coming to Cambodia to provide free medical treatment, and he decided to visit the free clinic to consult them. During the consultation, veteran plastic surgeon from Singapore, Dr. Fong Poh Him, decided to separate the webbed fingers of Sroy’s right hand first, after discovering that he was right-handed.
"We have to consider the needs of the patient. If we operate on both his hands, he won’t be able to eat or take a shower. This will make life difficult for him," said Dr Fong.
“I feel like I am reborn!” said a visibly touched Sroy, as he sobbed tears of joy after undergoing a successful surgery.
He had been longing to have a “normal hand” for a very long time, and was deeply grateful to the medical team from overseas. He was also very touched by the care and support he received from the volunteers from the start of his consultation till after he had the surgery.
A young mother aged 24, who was 5 weeks pregnant, came to the free clinic with her family, including her two young daughters, aged 5 and 3. On their way to there, they were knocked down by a motorcycle while crossing the road. The 5-year-old daughter’s head was injured and started bleeding while her mother had a fall.
The young mother was very worried about her daughter’s injury and that her unborn baby would be affected. Upon seeing the family, some volunteers immediately took the daughter to the surgery room for emergency treatment and arranged for an ultrasound examination for her mother.
“The little girl was bare to the waist when she arrived at the free clinic. Her body was covered with dirt and her head was bleeding,” said Chew Lai Hoe, a veteran nurse from Singapore.
Fortunately, both the girl’s mother and her unborn baby were safe, and the girl was in a stable condition after receiving a few stitches on her head.
The little girl was still in a state of shock after her wound was treated. Chew then used a surgical cloth to wrap the girl’s upper body. Tzu Chi volunteer Tan Siew Chin managed to find two sets of second-hand clothes, which she gave to the two girls. Their mother broke into a happy smile when she saw that.
Helping those in need without discrimination
The Prey Kabas Referral Hospital in Takeo Province provided the medical team with an electrocardiogram machine, two ultrasound instruments and X-ray machines. The free clinic also received over a dozen referral patients from TYDA, and most of them had dermatological conditions. Although they saw a doctor every month, they were not given the right medication, which caused their skin conditions to worsen.
One of these patients was Hai Sokraksa, a 12-year-old boy who was accompanied by his father and grandmother to the free clinic. Due to poor sanitation at home, the boy had a skin infection. He was treated by Dr. Chien Shou Hsin, who hails from Taiwan. His grandmother was greatly relieved after the doctor prescribed an ointment for him.
Dharma Master Zheng She He left home more than ten years ago to be a monastic. Through the recommendation of a friend who was a Tzu Chi volunteer, he came to the free clinic to serve as a translator. Speaking in fluent English, the Dharma Master became a bridge between the medical personnel and the local villagers.
He shared, “I am deeply touched by the doctors and volunteers, who set aside their jobs and travelled for miles to Cambodia to serve the villagers. The residents trust that the professional skills of the overseas medical team could relieve their illnesses. The free clinic has really helped them a lot.”
21-year-old Dharma Master Kim Chan was another monk who was present at the free clinic. He is currently studying at the University of Cambodia. Dharma Master Kim Chan was impressed to see so many doctors and volunteers from overseas at the free clinic selflessly serving the locals. He hoped that the people would love and care for each other, for only then would the country be peaceful. He also encouraged everyone to learn the Buddha’s teachings and how to carry themselves in life.
As Tzu Chi’s founder Dharma Master Cheng Yen often says, “When those who are suffering are unable to come out of their homes to seek help, those who are blessed must enter their homes to relieve their suffering.”
At the free clinic, Tzu Chi volunteers did their best to help the locals regardless of their nationality, race or religion. This major medical aid mission has provided some 5,789 consultations and treatments, while the rice distribution benefitted 1,370 impoverished families.
In the process of serving the people in Cambodia, Tzu Chi volunteers also spread the seeds of kindness to various counties and provinces around the country.