In August we sent a newsletter fundraising for equipment for a new church-based clinic. Thank you to everyone who donated! We had a great response and now have all the money that we need. Phil has done all the purchasing and along with his students has been operating the new mobile clinic for a few months already. Recently Pagna, one of his key student leaders, pointed out how he liked working each Monday and Wednesday at the church-based community clinics because ironically, he could now do better quality dentistry in the middle of paddy fields than he could at the university clinic! As planned we have kept the extractions free and the villagers all seem happy to pay for the $2 fillings.
Take the tour by watching the video above.
Here’s a short video from Phil Sussex giving us a glimpse of one of the rural dental clinics he is involved with. It was filmed particularly to thank those who donated towards clinic materials and equipment.
The newly revamped Monday and Wednesday clinics are working out really well as a good venue to help local people with their dental problems, as well as to train dental students and to encourage the four Christian students Phil is working with closely.
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….
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.