Sunday, March 15, 2015

Cambodia 2015-Arrived

One would think that after 20 hours of flying over 11,000 miles we would reach out to a bed and a pillow and rest. Not so. Excitement trumps exhaustion, and the mind moves our bodies gracefully but slowly, anticipating all that we are going to see and do over the next few days. And so it began. We met as a team and talked about expectations, those dream like mind visions of what we wanted to do. But the reality is that expectations are just that: hopeful actions that may or may not come true.


A while back, an NGO was visiting a village and noticed that the women of the village would get up early every morning and walk 2 hours to a river to get water for the day and walk back. 4 hours plus of making sure that a valuable source of life was available to all those who commune in the village. The NGO decided that a water well was needed. So they spent the next year and a lot of money building a well in the village. Problem solved. But the villagers although grateful, were not overly joyous. When asked why, they said, if they had been asked what their greatest need was, it would have been a school and school books for the children. The women walking to get water had been a process that was accepted and was never considered a burden. What was improtant was educating the children. The NGO had their eyes opened.


In another country, mosquito nets treated with a chemical repellent were handed out by the hundreds to villagers who lived on costal waters. Malaria was rampant and the NGO’s focus and expectation was to decrease the malaria rate. After a few months, the NGO heard that there was an increase in an unknown illness that was affecting the villagers, worse than malaria. They went back and realized their mistake. The villagers were fishermen and because fishing nets were expensive and scarce, the mosquito nets treated with a chemical repellent were being used to catch fish. Contaminated fish with a toxic chemical repellent which when eaten over time, accumulated in the villagers and caused a toxic illness. An expectation not expected.


So we talked about this. We start tomorrow with a long drive to Battambang, leaving at 5am and will get back around 9pm. We’ll set up our clinic, see more than a couple of hundred children, with the expectation that we will make a difference. How? The final thought I shared with the team is that it is not what we will bring, but what we will leave behind that will be remembered. Expectation for me is that we will leave behind a lasting memory in our patients’ minds of grace, respect, validation of person, and love. And what a privilege it will be do so.


In all things give thanks,