Cambodia

Cambodian History in the Making

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A little bit of history was made at World Mate Emergency Hospital in Battambang recently when Mark Lander, paper-maker extraordinaire from Amberley, arrived from New Zealand with one of his Hollander Critter machines for my use at the hospital. My project, “Twer Daoee Dai”  (Made by Hand) was born! Our machine, purchased with funds raised while back in New Zealand last year, is the 402nd one Mark has made over the last 15 years or so. He seldom gets the opportunity to travel to set up the machine as he did by coming to Cambodia and the presence of one of his machines in Battambang is a first for Cambodia.

The bulk of the machine was sent by courier, arriving safely a week or so before Mark did. It arrived in Phnom Penh, then completed its journey by bus to Battambang. Instead of travelling with ‘normal’ luggage, Mark came with a large aluminium vat on wheels, in which were other items for the paper-making process he knew would not be available in Cambodia. His personal belongings were limited to what he could carry in his hand luggage.

Mark flew into Siem Reap and we went up to meet him, then travelled back with him by bus to Battambang. What followed were seven days of frantic activity, during which Mark purchased wood and other materials to make accessories for use with the papermaking machine and proceeded to make, from scratch, 50 molds for paper, a box to mount the fabric cutter he brought with him. Anthony and I worked alongside him at times, Anthony sanding the frames of the molds, me cutting the special nylon wire which Mark then stretched over the frames, before attaching them with the help of his trusty thirty year old air-driven staple gun, brought along specially for this purpose.

Making the frames was a time-consuming and tiring activity, especially with the heat increasing daily. It was at the end of the week, with all the preparation done, that we were ready to make our first batch of paper.

I had been saving scraps of what I thought was cotton fabric to be the basis of our first batch – however, when Mark cast his experienced eye over it, it was declared unsuitable as it wasn’t pure cotton. Man-made fabrics don’t break down in the machine, so cannot be used. In the absence of any other suitable material, two cotton sheets I had covering equipment in my workspace were quickly appropriated for the job. It was a case of “goodbye cotton sheets” as Mark showed me how to run them through the fabric cutter safely to turn them into small squares ready to go into the machine. Some scrap paper was torn up to start off the batch, the cotton fabric added and the machine filled with water.

We then plugged the Hollander in and, bingo, after much anticipation and preparation, we were finally underway with making paper! The machine graunched and groaned as it started up and what had gone in as cotton fabric was quite soon turned into pulp. I poked and prodded the pulp with a long stick to keep the mix moving around the tub of the machine. It soon became apparent that there was a lot of soap residue from the many times the sheets had been washed, so we had to ditch the water to get rid of it and start over with a new lot of clean water! Approximately three and a half hours later, Mark declared the pulp to be the right consistency and it was time to transfer it to the molds.

The vat was half filled with water, several bowls full of pulp were added and we were ready to dip the molds into the mix, shake them gently – there is an art to this which I have yet to perfect! – roll them with a paint roller over felt attached to a suction box (in the absence of a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to do this part of the job), then stand them carefully against the fence in the sun to dry. Several hours later, we peeled the paper off. What we produced from our white sheets with sprigs of blue flowers on them was nice pale mauve, reasonably thick, textured paper.

Now it was time to experiment with some locally available natural products. We set off to find a sugarcane juicing machine on the roadside and asked the man operating it if we could have his discarded husks. He readily agreed and we grabbed several armfuls, purchased sugarcane drinks from him as a thank you, and headed back to the hospital to try our luck with another batch of paper.

The process for making paper from natural products is similar to that using cotton fabric, however, there is no need to assist the drying of the pulp once on the molds. Mark showed me how to break up the husks ready for boiling them in caustic soda and water to soften them prior to putting them into the machine. We were both amazed and delighted to discover that this process took only about 45 minutes – a considerably shorter time than when Mark makes paper from flax which has to be boiled for around 5 hours!

Once the husks were soft enough, they were rinsed in water and placed in the Hollander. Keeping the pulp mix moving around the machine is more of a challenge as the long fibers get tangled around the spindle quite easily. Once they were broken down enough to move freely, we left them and returned a few hours later to find the pulp ready to put onto the molds. The dipping of the molds into the pulp and water mix in the big vat happened again and they were put out to dry. We left them overnight and returned the next morning to find fifty sheets of lovely thin, opaque, golden coloured paper.

With two successful batches of paper made already (thanks more to Mark’s expertise than any skill on my part!), Mark disappeared off into the bushes at the end of our street before we went to the hospital one morning, emerging triumphantly with a trunk from a banana tree in his arms. This was to be the basis of another batch of paper. Mark showed me how to strip the coating from the trunk to expose the fibers inside. We then processed the fiber in the same way as for the paper made from sugarcane husks. This time, the result was thin, opaque beige paper with quite a sheen to it.

What we were doing generated a considerable amount of interest and, throughout the week Mark worked at the hospital setting up the machine and making the molds, many staff visited my workspace and were intrigued by what we were doing. Several expressed interest in participating, and plans are afoot to make this a reality – I certainly can’t do the whole papermaking process, along with everything else I do, with just one pair of hands!

Mark’s time here went all too quickly and before long, it was time for him to head to Siem Reap for his flight back to his family at home. The time Mark spent here was the fulfilment of a long time of planning and fundraising for me. It was a fun time and I was blown away by the humility of Mark the paper craftsman who was so willing to share his expertise, learnt over many years of papermaking, with me. He is passionate about what he does and was genuinely excited to be in Cambodia.

Thank you, Mark, for sharing your life and skills so freely with me for the ultimate aim of providing a unique leisure activity for patients at the hospital, many of whom will derive much pleasure from their involvement in the craft of handmade paper. It will be exciting to see what we can make with the paper we produce! I aim to make saleable products to generate income so that the activity programme at the hospital is eventually self-sustaining.

If you, or someone you know, would like a holiday with a difference and would like to come to Cambodia to volunteer for a period at the hospital, assisting me with paper-making and other activities that are part of my programme, let me know!

To see more images from the above story, click here.

Commotion in Cambodia

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One Monday morning I met a Vietnamese lady when doing the rounds with activities for the children. She seemed rather agitated, so I decided to try finding out why. With the help of one of the Curtin interns who was Vietnamese, I discovered the cause of her agitation – her husband had died the night before in the village a long way away and she needed to be seen by a doctor in order to be discharged to arrange and attend his funeral. I spoke to the right people to facilitate this, then returned to her bedside to hold her hand and try to show some comfort. She was discharged later that morning, and, before she left, she asked the Vietnamese student to find me to say how much she appreciated the concern I had shown for her – which was such a simple thing for me to do.

And then there was the elderly, bald lady in C ward who had no caregiver present when I was passing. I noticed she wanted a drink but couldn’t move enough to reach the cup. Of course, I helped her and she beamed a toothless smile at me.

Outside the hospital, in our daily lives, we often have opportunities to be a blessing to others less fortunate than ourselves. One Friday morning while I was on the balcony of our house (pictured above) doing my usual daily Bible reading, I heard a commotion below and realised that the rubbish truck was doing the rounds. As I watched, I was surprised to see that one of the workers on the truck was a woman and that her two children were accompanying her on the rounds. What a life for these poor children, who looked so bedraggled in their torn, dirty clothes with no shoes. I determined immediately to do something to help them and, next time they appeared, took some food to them which was devoured eagerly – obviously they had not had anything to eat so far that day. A mere drop in the bucket in terms of their need, but at least I did what I could.

And they all, hospital patients and others, without exception, said “arkoon tom tom” – thank you very much. I had the words of Jesus from Matthew 25:40 resonating in my brain for quite some time. “When you do it for the least of these my brothers and sisters, you do it for me.”

Although the needs here can sometimes feel overwhelming, as virtually all the hospital patients have a sad story, the grateful thanks I receive for the small encouragements I am able to bring them make my role worthwhile and very rewarding.

What a privilege it is to be the hands and feet of Jesus in this dark and needy place where many are overcome by helplessness and hopelessness.  My prayer is that God will continue to give me a heart of compassion and resolve to make a small difference in the lives of the poor and needy in the best way I can.

 

For more from Anne and Anthony McCormick, visit anneandanthony.wordpress.com

Anne and the Cambodian Hospital

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It’s been a while since I’ve been able to sit down and write. It’s not that there has been nothing of interest to report – if anything there has been rather too much going on. By the time of day that I am available to consider writing a blog, I am typically exhausted and much more likely to fall asleep in the chair than to venture to the laptop to write a blog entry.

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.

 

For more from Anthony and Anne, visit anneandanthony.wordpress.com

Social work takes patience… and funds

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Anthony McCormick has the exciting opportunity to set up a new Social Work department in the World Mate Hospital in Battambang, Cambodia. He is in need of a full time translator to get the programme up and running. Here’s what he writes:

As I have been given the task of establishing a Social Work Department at World Mate Emergency Hospital in Battambang there is a need for a full time translator for one year starting ASAP in order to assist getting the programme running on a good foundation. The Hospital does not have the resources to employ a full time translator for this role, but it is necessary for me to be able to develop materials needed to mentor and coach my new team to a high professional level.

The translator would translate Social Work and Pastoral Care books into the Khami language and also help develop the appropriate forms used in Social Work. They would also help at meetings and training sessions as well as assist when required in the community.

This will cost approximately $300 USD a month ($3600 USD total).

 

If you’re interested in helping to support this project please email office@nzcms.org.nz

Adventure on the Bamboo Railway

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Last week the NZCMS Kiwis in Cambodia have been hanging out together. They enjoyed a few days sharing experience and encouragement on retreat with their wider ‘umbrella’ team in Siem Reap. On the way home the Sussex family stopped to check out Battambang, where the McCormicks are based. Anne and Anthony took them to experience the legendary Bamboo Railway – what a blast!

Thank you from the McCormicks

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Anne and Anthony would like to thank everyone for their support at the recent Cambodian Evening. They were hugely encouraged by the results. With proceeds from the dinner, the auction, the sales table and a generous donation from someone at the dinner, they now have enough funds to cover the cost of the paper-making machine for Anne’s handcraft project AND the airfare for Mark Lander to travel to Cambodia to set-up the machine and give training in its use. Let’s continue to pray for the McCormicks as they return to Cambodia and take up their new ministries there at Handa Hospital.

 

How Was Your Commute?

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Commuting in Phnom Penh is a little ‘same-same but different.’ It is the same awful feeling when the alarm wakes you from a deep sleep, the same tea and coffee routine – just add some nice tropical fruit to those cornflakes. The same voices on National Radio Morning Report and Checkpoint – only streamed via the internet to my phone. The same peak hour traffic but with more interesting things to look, and get mad at – what happens to the passenger of the motorbike holding the large sheet of plate-glass or the baby without clothes (let alone a helmet) when they crash? At times we get gridlocked just like Auckland, but here you think nothing of riding footpaths, kerbs and through service station forecourts, accelerating wide around cops, being careful not to make eye contact!

My day started at 5:30am with breakfast then a fairly rapid commute north before the traffic becomes too heavy using a 100cc scooter to the University where I teach dentistry. After a 7am lecture to 5th year students it’s back on the bike, but now the tar-seal is breaking up into potholes and ruts, trucks blinding me with their dust as I head 30 minutes further north of the city.

Mental note to self – pack goggles!

I spend a very pleasant morning at the “Elderly Living Hope Church” (great name) providing very basic dental free care (mainly extractions) to the local community, all of whom have been forcibly relocated here after being evicted from slum dwellings located on prime development land in Phnom Penh. It’s an OK location but this far from the city there are very few jobs and for most, such relocations result in them being much worse off.

I work here with the pastor’s wife in their house beside their ‘church’ – a concrete courtyard. Three years ago they noticed how many of the community had dental problems for which treatment was completely unaffordable. The church began praying for a dentist and when none eventuated they sent the pastor’s wife, Leangna, off to Dental School where she has just completed year 1 of 7. Ever tried smoked fish and watermelon? Turns out that’s a very popular among older Cambodians. Today when I turned up with a melon Leangna rushed off to buy a little smoked fish to accompany it for our lunch – delicious!

This afternoon I’ll take a ‘back seat’ and supervise some of my students (a couple Christians and others not yet) as they learn the trade and help some locals along the way. There’s no shortage of rotten teeth here – Cambodia has among the highest rates of dental decay among kids in the world (the average 6 year old has 9 rotten teeth)! Fingers crossed as we head home late afternoon – monsoon rain can add a whole new dimension to travelling by motorbike. Wonder what I will see along the way….

School Director Needed in Cambodia

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The HOPE International School Board and the HOPE School community seek to appoint a servant-hearted educational leader with the experience and skills to manage a growing, complex P-12 Christian international school based in Cambodia.

Phil Sussex has passed on this message for our NZCMS family:

On behalf of HOPE International School Cambodia School Board, I am sending you the link for the announcement of our search for a new Director. This position will replace the amazing Brent Wilsmore who has served at HOPE for more than 10 years.  Since his announcement to end his time at HOPE in June 2015, the Board has put out a  call for applications.

As a member mission agency, we are asking if you would kindly add this job vacancy to all locations where you advertise for personnel and any other places you think would be appropriate.

This is a very specific role, for a very special person; please join our school community in praying God would lead and guide us all in this highly significant appointment.

 Details about the position can be found at hopeschool-cambodia.org/index.php?id=609. If you know of anyone who may be interested, please pass this email onto them.

Phil’s Dental Expedition

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Phil Sussex reflects on a recent dental outreach in Cambodia. 

Recently I was able to escape the hot concrete jungle of Phnom Penh to some villages beyond the jungle. I was there to work alongside a mission team from St Hilda’s Anglican in Singapore and Church of Christ our Peace in Phnom Penh. At the newly established local church of Svay Rieng over 400 local people took time out from farming to have teeth extracted or filled by our small team of overseas dentists and Cambodian dental students. Those who came also received basic oral health education as well as a gospel message children’s book. Many locals also attending meetings at night led by Rev. Hieng, Cambodia’s only ordained Anglican priest.

The annual rains arrived while we were there marking the beginning of the rice planting season. While we were grateful for cooler nights, the newly planted seed began to germinate, out of sight below the soil. Jesus’ parables really come alive as we work and live in the midst of paddy fields and the spiritual metaphors resonate well with my students whose families are also rice farmers. At the dental school where I work there are on average two Christian students per year. The two in their fifth year of study attended this trip – a great opportunity to discuss more freely the things that matter most.

Please pray that Eath, a fairly new believer, will continue to grow in his faith and be encouraged week by week as he attends the dental student cell group meeting at an outreach café near the university.