Yet, while there has been such a long silence from this end, things have been gathering momentum and it is time to take stock and be encouraged that I have actually made a difference in at least some lives at World Mate Emergency Hospital in Battambang, as well as in the lives of others outside the hospital. Let me tell you about some of them.
I started in my role of Activities Coordinator on October 6 last year. My first few encounters with patients involved taking games and activities into the wards to help occupy some very bored children. This became the main activity every afternoon and I was received with enthusiasm.
One of the first adult patients in whose life I was able to make a difference was Sam In (pictured above). Like so many others here, she is a victim of a serious motorbike accident. Having seen her bright smile (despite the tragedy of having lost a leg), I approached her to see if she would like to meet up with me regularly to learn some form of handcraft. As we talked, she told me she knew how to “knit with one needle” (i.e. crochet) but would like to learn to knit with two needles. I knew I could help with that request, so, armed with some wool and knitting needles given by the Care for Cambodians group in Melbourne, I went and sat at her bedside every morning and taught her to knit. It wasn’t long before other patients and caregivers joined us and I was soon supplying quite a few ladies with wool and knitting needles so they could knit as well. Once I had taught them how to cast on and off and do some basic stitches, I found their creative brains kicked in and they were working out, without any pattern to follow or input from me, how to make hats, scarves and bags.
The day before Sam In was discharged from hospital, she shared a bit more of her story with me. I was saddened to learn that the motorcycle accident which took her leg also took the life of her 14 year old daughter. Sam In’s husband and another daughter were also in the accident but had already been discharged from hospital. I felt incredibly privileged – and humbled – to have been able to brighten the life of this special lady, whose life was changed forever on the day of the accident. When she left hospital, she took with her a large bag of wool so she could keep on knitting at home. As she left I said goodbye to her at the hospital gate. She looked a different person, beautiful and radiant, no longer dressed in hospital clothing, but in a new dress which cleverly hid her stump.
Then there was Phai, whom I discovered had no clothes to wear home when it came time for her to be discharged. This is a common scenario, as the clothing in which they arrive at the hospital is often ruined in the accident which caused them to come here. If they are from a long way away, they don’t have family members visiting to provide clothes – and often the family is too poor anyway. I was able to provide clothes for her to wear home, as the Curtin University interns left me with some clothing they didn't want to carry back to Australia.
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