Anthony and Anne

Christchurch Cambodian Evening

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Join Anthony and Anne McCormick for an evening celebrating all things Cambodian, complete with Khmer cuisine, entertainment and an update from folk who have recently returned from Cambodia. Saturday 5 August 6pm at St Christopher’s Church (corner Avonhead Rd and Coniston Ave). 

Tickets $25 per adult (family price available).

Tickets available from Anne (ph. 022 457 6924), the NZCMS Office or St Christopher’s (Office hours 9am-2pm Mon-Fri).

If you’re planning on coming, please respond immediately as the caterer needs to know final numbers on Thursday morning.

Seeing things up close

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Here are some further reflections by Maureen Harley from her recent time visiting Mission Partners in Cambodia. Her previous reflection can be found here.

It’s been a privilege to have an up close view of God at work in and through the lives of some Mission Partners.

Five years ago our apartment was filled with the sound of excited voices. We were in Phnom Penh and thanks to NZCMS’s subsidy we were able to offer hospitality to an ever increasing number of Mission Partners from various agencies and countries as they came into the city for respite or travelled on business. This was the first time though, that we had the chance to host a Kiwi family – their first stop as they began their Cambodia adventure.

It was an enriching experience and we were happy to repeat it a few weeks later, hosting a charming couple as they found their feet on “our side of town.”

Five years on and we were hosted by them –first by the McCormicks and then by the Sussex family, as both celebrate five years of living in Cambodia. What a grace filled time we had, seeing how God has used their time in the country to shape them and use them.

Anthony & Anne live in Battambang city in the north west of Cambodia. It’s a largely rural province and the city is small and retains a village feel to much of it. They have made a lovely home there and offer hospitality to a number of visitors, including us, with simplicity and grace.

Two years ago Anthony set out to establish a social work department at World Mate Trauma hospital. We were able to visit his team: a dedicated, professional group obviously appreciative of all “Mr Anthony” had done in training them. The value of what they can offer is slowly being recognised by medical and nursing staff – they feel they could still do more if the staff understood their role. The material Anthony has prepared has been taught to others in social work and will form part of his ongoing ministry in this field.

Anne also works at the hospital, setting up a range of activities suitable for patients (who are mostly long term) and caregivers to help occupy their otherwise hours of empty time. These include books for reading, jigsaw puzzles, games, card work for crafts, knitting. And there’s of course helping with paper-making, which provides the paper for card-making which is the major fund source for the materials and equipment with which Anne has equipped the department.

We saw for ourselves people’s faces light up with joy at being able to achieve something so simple as a jigsaw puzzle. We heard laughter from people playing a simple peg balancing game. We saw community and sharing happen as women gathered to be part of a team setting frames to dry in the final stage of paper making. And we heard of needs identified as stories were shared and how these could now be referred to a fully functioning Social Work Department.

In a hospital full of trauma victims, full of the very poor, the often uneducated rural villagers far from home, there is no doubt that the work of Anthony and Anne’s new departments working in very small humble ways is contributing richly to people’s lives.

Phil and Becky Sussex can also look back on five years in Cambodia. Next month they will pack up their home and their lives and fly back to begin the next stage of their journey in New Zealand. The impact they will leave behind in people’s lives is hard to measure. They all know so many people and have supported parents, staff and pupils through major upheavals at Hope International School.

We were unable to join Phil on some of his work experiences but seeing his photos and hearing his stories left us shuddering. We were able to imagine how it has been for him, a professional dentist who has had to cope with students with limited experience, a lack of modern equipment, primitive conditions, operating in the prison (when they were allowed in) and in villages, even in the back of churches. All this in the unrelenting heat of a Phnom Penh summer (and autumn and spring and winter!). Phil is currently polishing up his final lecture series to get it ready to hand over to the university and writing exam questions for the post grad oral surgery exam. Long after he has left this lecture series will be equipping future students.

We enjoyed looking over the new Hope School facility. We found it hard to believe we were in Cambodia – picture the two storied buildings, spacious classrooms and extensive grounds any modern school would aspire to. What is not evident in most schools is the atmosphere. Permeating every part of school life is the love of Christ – students and staff alike seek to live out the command of Christ to love God and to love one another. It is almost palpable! Becky continues to teach part time in the preschool class – a mini united nations! – shaping children, many of whom will become the next generation of missionaries, living cross culturally in the hope of seeing others know the love of Christ.

The kids on the surface are getting on with getting on with life. We remember them from five years ago, delighting in playing games with us and in hearing stories read. Now they are busy about their own grown up affairs: Bryn in creating props for the coming Wizard of Oz production at school, Toby as part of the back stage team fitting rehearsals in amongst his basketball and music, Pippa racing home to play with their cat and foster cat with whom she can do almost anything, and Molly showing great promise in learning the ukulele from big brother Toby.

Their home welcomed us as easily as did the family – the love of God shone through their relationships with each other and the way they ministered to us.

All too soon it was time for us to leave Cambodia again – but it was easier to leave somehow now that we had seen how faithful God is to the Cambodian people. He did send workers who stayed on when we left and he will continue to do so until all his children are gathered in. And you know what – it is all managed without our being there!

The Hospital

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The following is a blog written by Beth Goodwin who volunteered with Anne McCormick in Cambodia for a month. Here she shares her reflections from her time with Anne. The original blog can be read here (and includes many more photos).

The World Mate Emergency Hospital in Battambang – this is where I’ve been for most of the last month [ending in April], helping Anne McCormick with her activities programme. It’s a lovely hospital, with restful greenery and bougainvillaea gardens. There are two big wards of about 32 beds each, one for men, one for women and children. Then an infection ward, and ICU, plus a few rooms for private patients. The main cases that come here are amputees and broken bones. Cambodia still struggles with unexploded landmines, so there are more amputees. It wasn’t too gory, mostly things were nicely bandaged up.

It’s a Japanese funded hospital (Handa Foundation) – though minimally. There are a few expat staff in there, which apparently means fewer mis-diagnoses, because their qualifications were most probably a lot more in-depth, their degrees earned not purchased. Cambodia is still suffering significantly from the Pol Pot regime, and education has a long way still to go.

Nurses didn’t seem to have much to do! Surprisingly. Same as restaurant staff. How do we find so much to do in New Zealand. Surely there are the same tasks? Nurses here were usually congregated at the end of the ward, on their phones. They blocked facebook on staff wifi for obvious reasons. But the ward was clean, wounds dressed, nobody died last month (I think). Maybe there’s less paperwork and peer pressure. They get US$1 an hour. Rent is upwards from about $50 per month as far as I can tell. I find myself thinking, well, if you’re in a DINK situation, that’s just enough for eating, maybe, you can survive. But then, all it takes is one emergency, a broken leg, a stolen motorcycle/bicycle, a funeral or wedding. What then? Not to mention kids at school, needing clothes etc. It’s tough.

Every patient at the hospital had a family member or a friend there 24/7 to help them with bathroom tasks, food etc. Its tough on the family member if they had to stop work! They sleep on the floor by the patients’ beds, but apparently they’d mostly sleep on a mat on the floor at home anyway, so its no different.

Anthony & Anne – so lovely to stay with a kiwi couple. They have been so kind, helping me with how to get around, lots of lifts, some ice-creams, and the loan of some useful items like a kettle and chilly bin to help when I moved into a guesthouse in town. Thank you both.

Anthony’s role there has been to start a Social Work department. This has had challenges, since social work isn’t really a ‘thing’ in Cambodia. It is now! I don’t know too much about what’s involved, but it’s such a helpful and necessary gap being filled! He’s been training up a fantastic team, who have benefited from all his NZ Social work training and experience. The department is practically running itself now, which is a huge achievement. It’s the funny role of most mission work – to make yourself redundant. I’ve so enjoyed Anthony’s humour, good sense, cheeky grin, and strong faith.

I’ve spent most of the time with Anne with her activities program at the hospital. I’m so impressed that she’s built it up so much over the years. There’s now a room with cupboards, heaps of books and resources, and one paid staff member to help. A few years ago, it had no walls even. I can’t imagine it with no aircon, and no cupboards to lock, trolleys to push etc. Thanks to all overseas suppliers and fundraisers of good things.

Anne is a librarian by trade, so unsurprisingly, everything works highly efficiently, and is well-categorised, numbered and labelled. She used to lend the books out for a few days at a time, but found many were going missing, hence the trolley system. It takes 1-1.5 hours to take the books round in the morning, let them choose, write down the number. They are collected after 4pm. Patients definitely perk up when the books and puzzles trolleys come round. We do games in the afternoons 1-3 times a week.

You might think it doesn’t sound like much, taking round books and puzzles. From a western perspective, maybe it seems unnecessary. But here, when there are no libraries and games are unaffordable, it’s a huge blessing to have these things to pass the time, get your thinking away from your pain, and also it helps bonding between patients and their family caregivers. It’s helping them to heal faster, I reckon. Plus, they get to know Anne and Sokhim, and often will share struggles. It’s easier talk to the ones with the books than the ones with the needles…

I would really have loved to get to know the patients more. There’s time to banter with them, ask them how the day’s going, how they enjoyed the book, what sort they’d like next, what they do for a job, how they broke their arm, the list goes on. I felt very restricted by the language barrier. I managed a few stock phrases by the end, but that’s not enough. If I do decide to stay overseas longterm, language is top priority – I didn’t realise just how vital it really is.

It was heartbreaking to see adults and children needing to be shown what a puzzle is, how you do it. They all loved them once they got going, but didn’t have the reflexes of looking for matching colours, straight edge pieces, and matching the puzzle to the picture. It’s just practice. Reminds me of me trying to play a computer game last year. My flatmates challenged me to ‘judge not’ without trying them. So I tried a few for the experience. They were fairly patient with me, but I could see the frustration – can’t she see, the score’s right there, so’s the map, so’s the treasure count or whatever, she’s going right into the danger zone! From my perspective, I found it took all my concentration to focus on one part of the screen, and try to walk and not to get eaten (which I never managed to avoid). I didn’t have the visual clues and trillions of hours of practice.

I began to wonder, all these things we take for granted like puzzles, are they all actually learning tools? Learning not only colour matching, and little pieces forming a whole picture, but even critical thinking. The thought processes of – what if I turn this round, will it fit? Critical thinking is hugely important in life (in my opinion), and I just started to wonder if it’s taught in more subtle ways than we think, like through puzzles, for instance.

Probably my favourite day was when we realised some of them were saying no to books because they couldn’t read. I am beginning to realise Anne has everything! She even has a box of pairs of cheap long-sighted glasses, which we brought out, and they were SO happy! The laughter and disbelief of suddenly being able to see clearly and read again! Their kids found it hilarious too, watching their mums suddenly sporting a pair of glasses.

My most terrifying day was the last day, when I played some viola to two of the wards. I really, really don’t enjoy playing solo to people. I’m a viola player for goodness sake, which is a group harmony instrument, gregarious even, enjoys safety in numbers. I don’t even like practicing when anyone’s in the house! I have learned to play with 4 pegs on my bridge to dampen the sound somewhat. BUT, I am here for reasons other than just what I feel like doing, and I thought it might be fun for them, you definitely don’t see violas every day here. So, I braced myself, and played some appalling renditions of Bach suites and Monti’s Czardas. Thankfully, I have no idea what they thought – language barriers have positive moments, too. Some of the kids enjoyed trying it afterwards.

We made paper! To buy more books, expand the activities for the patients, Anne has been making paper to sell, and to make into cards and books. The paper is made with a machine built by Mark Lander in Amberley, Christchurch (see http://marklander.org/hollander-beaters). It works like a dream, on paper, cloth, and natural fibres. After home attempts with substandard equipment in my childhood, I was so impressed at how Anne and Sokhim managed to easily do 50 large A3 sheets of beautiful paper in a day. Sure, the occasional one wrinkled, but by and large they were all beautiful!

Waste Not, Want Not (Issue 27)

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Sometimes I feel as if I’ve graduated from a Recycling 101 class… and with flying colours. I work in a trauma hospital in Cambodia’s second biggest city. No, I’m not a doctor or a nurse; I’ve started a crafts programme to help with patients’ psychological recovery. Because of where I am, and because the project isn’t funded by the hospital, I’ve needed to find ways to make it sustainable and cost-effective. And sustainability also means it’s important that it doesn’t cause any harm to the community we live amongst. That’s one reason the Hollander Critter papermaking machine we started using in our project last year has been so valuable.

But there’s another reason this machine has proven so valuable. By using it, we’re able to make something out of nothing. I find this very satisfying, and it turns out I’ve been able to role-model this for those with whom I interact and work daily – almost without exception, the patients here struggle to find enough money to pay their hospital bills, adding considerably to the stress of being a long-term patient. By watching the project and participating as they’re able, people can discover that there are useful resources all around us – we just need to change the way we view things!

“One man’s trash…”

The world around us starts to look different when we have this change of perspective. Here’s some examples from the paper project:

Pages coloured in and thrown away by children in the hospital become the base of the fabric pulp for our paper making Pre-loved cotton that started its days as clothing, bedding, towels or tiny bits of fabric of no use for our “Days for Girls” (org) project become essential elements for the paper A tailor’s scraps of traditional Khmer silk and lace become trimmings for the cards we make Small pieces of silk fabric and offcuts of traditional Khmer scarves become a source of colour and texture for plain paper Husks discarded by the man who makes sugarcane juice are rescued from the roadside and are turned into paper as well Leftover coconut husks from a foot massage project which uses coconut oil products made by the staff become valuable for adding texture Discarded banana tree trunks can also be used to make paper of a tissue-paperlike consistency Pieces of handmade paper too small to be made into greeting cards become gift cards to complement the bigger cards we make

I’m not just involved with papermaking. Another thing I do is operate a small mobile library. This warms my librarian’s heart as I can put books into the hands of many who don’t normally have the opportunity to read. The trolley I use to distribute the books was cobbled together from old IV drip stands and other scrap metal from retired hospital equipment! I found what I needed in a shop, photographed it, showed it to the maintenance team and bingo! A week later I had my very own recycled trolley . It works a treat!

Many patients have benefitted from donations of retired reading glasses from an optometrist in Melbourne. The two most common reasons I’m given when asking patients if they want to borrow a book are “Knyom ot jeh arn” (I don’t know how to read) and “Knyom ot merl kern” (I can’t see). While we can’t help with the first problem, the donated glasses go a long way towards helping people who otherwise couldn’t read the books I offer.

And so the various aspects of my project inter-connect and I’m able to use leftovers from one part of the programme, or from another hospital department, in some other way. A smile crosses my face when I reflect on how I’m making a difference in the lives of patients who have met tragedy in their lives. That’s what I came to do. It’s doubly satisfying to know I’m also modelling good practice in reusing resources while being a responsible steward of what God has provided. God can indeed do amazing things with very little and I’m both honoured and humbled to be the vessel he’s using in this place at this time.

Anne and her husband Anthony are NZCMS Mission Partners serving patients in a Cambodian hospital.

 

For discussion

In what ways is God challenging you to ‘change the way you see’?

Is there anything from your daily life that could be recycled in a creative way rather than going into land-fill?

Melodies, Paper and Checkers

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Here’s an article by Caleb Holland from Alaska. He was part of a recent YWAM team from Honolulu who worked with Anne McCormick at the World Mate Hospital in Cambodia for five weeks.

The word ‘love’ is often misused if you ask me. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard a friend of mine say “Goodness! I love iced tea,” I would be a very wealthy man. They don’t actually ‘love’ iced tea. I understand words can change meaning as time progresses and culture changes, but something about ‘love’ is to be revered. It’s a precious word; a word that should be preserved for when it has the most meaning and impact. It can restore the broken. It can bring joy. It saves and creates life.

I love this hospital. The team I travelled to Cambodia with loves this hospital. The volunteers love this hospital. And this hospital has loved us. They say if you live in a place long enough, the building or house will adopt some of your characteristics. Though I have only been here a short time, it has become very clear to me that this place has been filled with loving people. When you enter, you’re greeted with compassion, and when you depart, it sends you away with a longing to return.

Melodies

Most days, we sing. When I heard we were singing, I was giddy. Christmas carolling is one of my favourite things back home; spreading joy and all of those niceties. Little did I know that we were singing in Khmer. Learning second languages has always been especially difficult for me (singing makes it a bit easier I admit), so long story short, this wasn’t going to be anything like Christmas carolling.

We walked down to the wards for the first time and I was nervous. I didn’t want to mispronounce some words and mistakenly belt out profanities. The team all readied our voices and waited patiently for the waving hands that meant “start singing”. Suddenly, the hands began to wave, and before I could think, Khmer songs flew from my mouth. I looked at the patients/visitors and they seemed pleased. Whether they were pleased because of our mispronunciations, or because we sounded angelic, didn’t matter to me anymore; if they were pleased, we were doing something right.

Being able to make people smile is probably one of the biggest things we take for granted. Every human being has the capability of brightening someone’s day. With a song, a joke, or an encouraging word, we can make painful circumstances more bearable. You don’t know what people are going through in their heads or their hearts. Who knows, perhaps you making them smile was exactly what they needed to keep on pushing.

Paper

Being able to create things is pretty spectacular if you stop and think about it. You’re taking things that are already their own separate entities, repurposing those things, and combining those things to make a singular thing. It’s astonishing, and we got to do that here with making paper. Essentially, you take whatever paper-like substances you have, throw it into a machine, get some mushy stuff, and one tray later you’ve got paper! It doesn’t sound very exciting written down, but that’s perhaps because I haven’t told you that you can throw coconut husks and old sheets into the paper mix. Got an ugly shirt for your birthday without a return receipt? Don’t re-gift it! Turn that thing into paper. The possibilities are quite literally limitless. And there’s so much more that comes out of it than fun. There’s a lot that separates man from beast, and creativity is among that lot. For me, and I’d say most of humanity, being able to create is an essential part of being human. It can provide therapy, it can entertain, and it can create civilizations.

Games and Puzzles and Such

There’s a certain chapter of our time here at the hospital that I would consider being my favourite. All of the chapters are good, of course, but I thrive in board games and puzzles, and if I thrive in something it’s going to be my favourite. You take this cart full of an assortment of games and keep your eyes peeled for those who look in need of some competition. Once you’ve found your competitor, let the sparks fly. The best part is teaching them how to play. Warning: they’re quick learners.

I specifically recall this one time when I was playing some checkers with a thirteen year old boy. The boy had what appeared to be a broken leg, and an even worse case of “Man, I wish I could get out of this bed and play some games.” I gestured the game of checkers, and through some persistence, he agreed to do battle with me. As I taught him the rules of the game using charades, I told myself “Caleb, take it easy on the guy; he’s new and no match for your chess expertise.” As the game began to pick up speed, I noticed I was taking it a bit too easy. I stepped up my game and put on the most intense looking checkers face I could. It wasn’t enough. He was still taking out my pieces. And with every piece he’d take, his grin grew closer and closer to his ears. “Fine,” I said, “no more training wheels.” I took my foot off the brakes and put the pedal to the metal. It was then when I realized a very sad, humbling fact. I’m not good at this game, and this kid was an expert. My last piece was taken and the boy’s right eyebrow was raised, paired with a smile that said “Easy.” I was defeated, but my pride wouldn’t let me leave on that note. So I lost two more times. And though the losses haunted me, the fun and joy from the boy outweighs anything else. And that’s the attitude you get from all of the patients here; fun, joy, and that powerful word I spoke of, ‘love.’ Without love, this hospital wouldn’t exist. Without love one may argue that nothing would exist.

Thanks

The team cannot express how thankful we are for the compassion and kindness the staff and patients have shown us. Without them, none of this would be possible. They’ve taught us so much through the way they’ve acted around us. And a bit more of a specific, focused beam of thankfulness goes out to Anne McCormick. She has consistently guided us through our afternoons and has been so willing to help and talk with us. I have met very few people in my life who are willing to commit so much of their lives and time to helping others. She and her husband are astounding examples of how to be a blessing to the world. The amount of work they put into creating opportunities for patients to be entertained through their trials is inspiring, and they’ve inspired me and my team to be better people. I could not stress enough how amazing of a place this is. If you’re in Battambang, you should most certainly volunteer here. I’m saying this from personal experience. You’ll learn lessons as long lasting as gold, and far more precious.

The photo above is a picture of Anne with Caleb’s YWAM team.

Newsworthy in Battambang

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If a newspaper can publish a collection of random snippets about everything in general and nothing in particular, so can this blog!  What follows is a collection of random snippets about life in Battambang – the city in Cambodia we currently call home.  Enjoy!

The weather

In general this year, we haven’t experienced much of a cooler season, except on two occasions, each of a few days’ duration, when the morning temperatures have been around 15!  This unusual happening caused us to dig deep to find the only thin blanket we own.  Most of the time we don’t even need a sheet on top of us when we sleep!

Such “cold weather” was enough to make the locals all reach for hats, scarves, gloves and jackets! At the hospital, patients were bundled up under  blankets  and many of them kept their head covered in an attempt to feel warmer.   Many of the knitted hats made by the ladies of the St Christopher’s knitting group came into their own and were very warmly received – excuse the pun! Caregivers congregated outside in the sun when ousted from the wards due to doctors’ rounds. This was such a contrast to most of the time here, when we all try hard to avoid the sun as it is just too hot!

Traffic lights

Battambang has just had traffic lights installed at several locations around the city.  The lights are the fancy variety which tell you how long it is until the light changes for the direction you want to go.  This is pretty amazing, since Battambang is Cambodia’s  second largest city and it has taken this long to get them here!  Mind you, their existence doesn’t necessarily mean a lot to the locals who are just as likely to ignore them in the same way they disregard traffic rules! One popular trick at intersections is to avoid the lights and duck off through gas station forecourts or bypass them by going onto the footpath!  One complicated intersection near the hospital,  with roads in five directions is now much more manageable. As an interesting aside, the Khmer phrase for traffic light is “plerng stop” which is literally “light or electricity stop!”

Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt were in town!

Yes, Battambang was the scene for a movie currently being made, directed by Hollywood’s Angelina Jolie who, with her husband Brad Pitt and adopted Khmer son, Maddox, was seen around town – not by me, I might add!  The movie is “First They Killed My Father” and is set in the 1960s. It is based on a non-fiction book  published in 2000, written by Loung Ung, a Cambodian author and survivor of the Pol Pot regime.  It is a personal account of her experiences during the Khmer Rouge years.

Buildings in the central town area were retrospectively refurbished to look as they did then.  Many of them now have French signs on their frontages.  Huge car transporters rolled into town carrying cars of the day, joined by big trucks carrying other scenery and effects to recreate the times accurately.

All this excitement in town caused huge disruption and rush hour traffic – yes, we do have a small rush hour here! – ground to a halt due to the closure of bridges and streets where filming is took place.  Venturing out anywhere needed careful thought and it was advisable to have a couple of alternative routes, albeit round about, planned in advance.

A word from Angelina about the movie: “I was deeply affected by Loung’s book [‘First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers’]. It deepened forever my understanding of how children experience war and are affected by the emotional memory of it. And it helped me draw closer still to the people of Cambodia, my son’s homeland.” Angelina Jolie Pitt.

Meanwhile at the hospital

My programme continues with its usual mix of tragedy and delight.  I frequently ponder about the range of emotions I see and sometimes experience during the course of a working day.  One minute I am moved to tears seeing a small girl with severe head trauma as a result of coming off a motorbike not having worn a helmet.  She has just been sent home as the hospital can’t do anything for her.  A nurse said to me today, “Only God can help her”.  Please join me in praying that He will, indeed, do a miracle and restore this little girl to her family.

The next minute, I witness delight on the face of a young man finally able to go home after a very long stay in hospital due to the severity of his leg injury – also sustained in a motorbike accident.  “I can walk!” he says as he goes past me on his way to the gate and back into the real world.

Monks and jigsaw puzzles

Would seem to be an unlikely mix – but mix they did the other day in the women’s ward!  I went into the ward with a group of Youth with a Mission volunteers who came to spend time with the patients.  We took in a puzzle for a long-term patient to tackle, then went to deliver a game to another patient.  When I went back to check on progress with the jigsaw, I was somewhat surprised to see that a visiting monk was joining in the task of trying to complete the puzzle!  Khmer people don’t usually do jigsaw puzzles and the logic and methodology  needed to complete the task aren’t usually part of their skill set.  I usually have to explain how to go about doing it.  Not this time!  The monk was doing a great job.  You would have thought he does puzzles like that all the time!

 

What a variety of situations we encounter in our lives here! Hopefully this glimpse of life in Battambang will provide a peek into our world and help you picture more accurately where we are and what we are doing.

 

This was originally posted to the McCormick’s blog. You can sign up to receive email notifications from them by visiting their blog and filling in your email address on the right side of the page (scroll down a little to find it). Click here.

Social Work in Cambodia

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The last update posted here from the McCormicks focused on Anne’s work. But what about Anthony’s new social work project?

In the same time-frame that I have set up my programme, Anthony has set up a social work department at the hospital, starting from scratch, in an environment where social work is not well understood. This is typical of Cambodia, not just the hospital. He began in October last year, working alone initially, developing policies and writing procedures to set the department on a good footing to a professional standard.

A translator joined him and together they worked on making all the documentation bilingual, as there is very little by way of social work resources in the Khmer language. This is due to the fact that it is a relatively new discipline in Cambodia, the first students graduated from a degree programme run in Phnom Penh in conjunction with a Washington university as recently as 2012.

Two fulltime social workers and a counsellor have since joined the team. They have found, as they visit patients in the wards, that there is a huge need for their services. The lives of so many at the hospital have changed forever because of the accidents or incidents which they have experienced. The social work team works to try to help them overcome the difficulties and challenges they will face in their daily lives when they are discharged from the hospital.

Training and mentoring the social work staff is a big part of Anthony’s work and is an aspect that he enjoys.  He has developed connections with social workers in other organisations and they join his team for monthly training sessions.

Anthony feels that, like me, he is putting his past training and experience to good use and the result is lives better equipped to face a different future.

Anthony’s social work team is pictured above: Sothea (translator), Sreymom (social worker), Sitha (Counsellor), Visal (Social worker)

Nothing is wasted

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As I work away happily at the hospital these days, I can’t help but think back to all the training and experience I have had throughout my life and realise afresh that it is all being put to good use as I pursue my current role. My library training and desire to put books into the hands of Khmer people who, traditionally, are not great readers, meant that one of the first things I did when I started in this role was to purchase some books, have a trolley made by the hospital maintenance team and trundle around the wards several times a week to deliver books to the patients and their caregivers – my own mobile library!

The book trolley was cobbled together from old IV drip stands and other scrap metal from retired hospital equipment of various types! I found what I needed in a shop, photographed it, showed it to the team and, bingo – a week later I had my very own recycled trolley. It works a treat!

Almost all patients have a caregiver staying with them 24/7, as nurses in this country give out medication and do dressings, but they don’t feed, bathe or toilet their patients – those tasks are left to relatives to do.

Every day is different – I never quite know what I’ll be doing from one day to the next. My interaction with the patients is governed by the schedules of the doctors and medical staff who do the ward rounds daily. If the rounds are completed efficiently, I am able to spend some time in the mornings with patients. If there are delays, I have to work around the doctors’ schedules, which may mean little or no patient contact. If that is the case, I usually try to do some activities with the caregivers.

I have found that the best way to generate interest in what I have to offer is to take an activity into the sitting areas outside the wards and just start doing it. I am usually joined quite quickly by folk curious to see what I’m doing and before long, quite a crowd gathers and they all join in. It is obvious to me as I watch that my activities are stress-relieving, as the relatives and caregivers chat away to each other and laugh – a welcome release from the rather tense atmosphere in the wards where there is often so much pain and tragedy.

Nothing is wasted.

Sometimes I feel as if I’ve graduated from the Recycling 101 class with flying colours. I’m taken back to my Guiding days when I learned “a Guide is thrifty”, or to the times my Mum said “be careful and don’t waste anything!” Both Mum and my Guide leader would be proud of me as I really have got into recycling and making something out of nothing in a big way – a direct result of having to be a creative problem-solver as my project is reliant solely on donations (of money and resources) and currently receives no hospital funding.

Let me share some of the ways I recycle with you:

The paper I use as a base for the fabric pulp has had a previous life in the hospital office or social work department, or as pages that children in the hospital have coloured in and discarded when they have finished. The cotton fabric scraps I use in the papermaking machine are all pre-loved and started their days as clothing, bedding, towels or tiny bits of fabric of no use by Sokim who sews for the “Days for Girls” project I have started. (Visit daysforgirls.org to find out more about this worthwhile project) A tailor in the market keeps small scraps of traditional Khmer silk for me for use in trimming the cards we make My friend who runs a foot massage project which uses coconut oil products made by her staff, sends the leftover husks my way Sugarcane husks are rescued from the roadside where they have been discarded by the man who makes sugarcane drink Flowers from the Bougainvillea bushes near my room are carefully removed from the pile of pruning done by the gardener, to boil up to make dye for the more uninteresting coloured paper we produce Fabric given to me for the papermaking machine, if it is not pure cotton or linen, is redirected and is sewn into bags in which toys and games are kept and circulated to patients Scalpels past their use-by date make great mini craft knives! Many hospital patients have benefitted from donations of reading glasses from an optometrist in Melbourne, brought here by the Care for Cambodians group which visits a couple of times a year. The two most common reasons I am given when asking patients if they would like to borrow a book to look at are “Knyom ot jeh arn” (I don’t know how to read”) and “Knyom ot merl kern” (I cannot see).  While we can’t help with the first reason, the donated glasses go a long way helping people who otherwise couldn’t read the books I offer them.

I find it very satisfying to see how the various aspects of my project inter-connect and especially, how leftovers from one part of the programme, or from another hospital department, can be utilised. I continue to marvel at how God has equipped both me for the work I am currently doing, as well as the programme with resources. My room, empty except for basic furniture when I started just eleven months ago, is now bulging with equipment. My heart is warmed and a smile crosses my face when I reflect on how I am making a difference in the lives of hospital patients who have met tragedy in their lives.  That is what I came to do. Thank you, Lord!

 

The above post has been shortened. To see the original click here.

More hands needed

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I’ve been having a great time interacting with patients at World Mate Emergency Hospital in Battambang, Cambodia. But I have a significant problem. As it turns out, I only have one pair of hands and that isn’t nearly enough to handle all the work that needs to be done!

If you would like to help out, there is an opportunity for short term volunteers in my activity programme.  Are you planning a holiday in Asia?  Could you call in to help for a while? Drop me an email at annemcc3@gmail.com if this interests you.

Church in Cambodia

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I figured you might be interested in finding out a little bit about what church looks like for us Sunday by Sunday.

Christianity in Cambodia has its roots in Battambang, so perhaps it is not surprising that, although there are many temples in this city, there are also around 35 Christian churches – not a bad number for a Buddhist city of around 200 000 people!

The church we attend is called Cambodia Christian Church.  The current church building was built in 2011.  Visiting and helping sick people, the elderly, widows, assisting poor children, orphans and people in need is an ongoing work of the church.  Bible lessons, English language, music instruction and song are shared throughout the week to children without cost.

The Sunday service commences at 8.30am.  The average attendance each week is around 70 people, and unlike the other churches we have attended since coming to Cambodia in 2011, there are proportionately quite a few older folk – older than us!  There are also young adults and children and often, visiting teams from Youth With a Mission, which has had a long association over the years with our church and which is very active in Battambang, due mainly to the presence of seven universities in the city.  We have teams regularly from Colorada Springs and Montana in the US.  A number of the young people in the church have had involvement with YWAM in the States and, on their return, they assist with translation as their English is usually pretty good. The service is primarily in Khmer, but translation of the main components of the service happens when there is a significant number of foreigners – which turns out to be most weeks!

A typical Sunday service opens in prayer and then we sing three or four worship songs, often songs we know – like Hillsong, as well as some homegrown Khmer songs.   Like everything here, the music is LOUD!  (Khmer people are not known for doing anything quietly and church music is no exception!).  We have a music group, consisting of a keyboard, guitar(s), drums and, sometimes, a tro –  traditional Khmer fiddle – played by an older man.

After the worship in which we all participate, there is usually a musical item from a large group of church members, both men and women.  They sing from the hymnal and the hymn is a traditional Khmer one, which is to say the tune is rather strange and unpredictable and, to my ear, not particularly musical!  Sometimes the children from the family ministry or the young adults perform a song, usually with actions, and these items are quite delightful.  Next comes the offertory (dongwaie) and we all parade up to the front of the church in a line and put our offering in a blue crate type offertory box.

Pastor Khiev Phon (pictured above) then shares the notices.  We are exhorted to pray for church members who are unwell or who have a need of some sort.   It is not unusual for the pastor to announce the passing of an older church member, or someone from another church.  There is a special fund which operates amongst the Christian community in Battambang and, when someone dies, a financial contribution is made from Funeral Association members, to help cover the cost of the funeral.  Traditionally, funerals here take place at the temple and the locals are cremated there too, but this is obviously not appropriate for Christians, thus the existence of the special fund.  Sometimes the pastor announces a special appeal, for example, to build a fence or make an addition to the roof and a second offering is received for this purpose.

Next comes the sermon but it is not usually the pastor who preaches!  He is almost 78 years old and is desperately trying to find a successor.  He usually invites one of the elders or a visiting preacher to preach.  Sometimes our American friend and retired pastor Don Whitney preaches and we can be sure of a good message – in English! – when he does.  Don is usually a quiet, reserved man – but, when he preaches, it is as if he undergoes a character change and frequently has us shouting out “Hallelujah” and “Praise the Lord” when cued!  He also loves to dance and often has us dancing as he finishes delivering his message!  Sometimes one of the YWAM group shares the message, so all up, we have quite a variety of preachers.

The service concludes with Pastor Khiev Phon reflecting briefly on the message of the sermon and praying.  We then sing the doxology and it is time to go home.

We have had a few particularly memorable services recently. One Sunday recently, the pastor introduced a new convert to the congregation – a teenage girl who had been witnessed to by her sister and had made a decision that, like her sister, she wants to follow Jesus.  These two young girls face quite a lot of opposition from their Buddhist family, so practising their faith is an ongoing challenge for them.

Perhaps the most notable service was last Sunday when the pastor shared his testimony and gave us an informative presentation about the history of the church. Pastor Khiev Phon spoke of his early years, growing up with his grandmother as his parents had separated. He became a Christian through the ministry of American missionaries and his grandparents were particularly influential in his Christian development. His grandfather was a pastor, who attended Bible School in Battambang in 1927 and began his ministry there. Mrs Ouch Dyna, Pastor Khiev Phon’s wife, has also been a Christian for many years. Her father was a Pastor and a missionary to Thailand. They have seven children and 18 grandchildren, most of whom are involved in the church, which Pastor Khiev Phon started in 1997 after quite a few years as a teacher and school principal. In his testimony he spoke of God’s miraculous intervention to save him from the hands of the Khmer Rouge soldiers, who usually killed anyone who was educated. It was a very moving occasion and concluded with us gathering around Pastor Khiev Phon and praying for him as he currently has some health issues.

I found an interesting blog on the internet about Pastor Khiev Phon.  It was written a few years ago by a YWAM team member and I recommend you read it for more information about this remarkable, yet humble man who loves and serves His Lord faithfully. Click here to read it.

To see the original post by Anne, visit their blog at anneandanthony.wordpress.com