God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 5
This morning we woke up bright and early, re-charged and ready to start our first day of clinical work and Vacation Bible School (VBS) in a poverty-stricken village outside of Poipet, a project of Freedom’s Promise. We traveled over an hour on dirt roads that were almost too worn for the journey. Our team arrived and set up our specialty areas – medical clinic, vacation bible school, eye clinic, counseling, and pharmacy. Initially, 30 patients had signed up for visits; however, well over 60 were seen. Most of these people had never seen a health care provider in their entire lives. Our clinic “waiting room” quickly filled up, and our day began.
VBS was wonderful and the children clutched their new gifts of brand new toothbrushes, coloring books and crayons, and toys while dancing and singing “Duck, Duck, Goose”. They are so innocent and happy, and appreciative of their gifts. And that is the message: all of them, young and old, appreciate everything that is done for them and given to them. I witnessed an elderly woman come to a nurse’s station, with tears in her eyes, so thankful that someone was now there to help her. I feel that others came out of a strange curiosity, without anything particularly wrong, but wanting to check out their health after all these years. And some were seriously ill, hoping for another diagnosis than the one that they feared, and continuing to hope for a cure that would never come.
Our time was cut short when threatening weather began to move in, and we headed back to Poipet. Our trip back was not totally uneventful: smiling children swimming in a pond, a water buffalo watching over her two calves, and a beautiful, yet huge, blue cobra slithering across the road and sliding into a pond. Our awesome van driver made sure that we got great photo ops!
Tonight, we had a wonderful traditional Cambodian dinner provided by Rose and Perlito and the members of Bridge of Hope. A great finish to a wonderful day.
As I reflect on the day, I realize that our team initially came to give to the impoverished our compassion and understanding and to try and touch their lives and help them in anyway we could. However, what actually happened was that it was they who have touched OUR lives. These people, who live in such aching poverty, are content. They are happy because they have what they need: family, a roof over their head, and community with those around them. I have learned not to feel sorry for them, but to embrace them. Love them for who they are and for the great love that they so willingly give to those who are kind enough to care for them. This is the character of the Cambodian people. They are amazing people and it is a gift to be here with them.
Written by Jill Swartz