Latest news & views

Nothing is wasted

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 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.

One thought on “Nothing is wasted

  1. My heart is also warmed and I smile as I read of the difference Anne is making to so many with her caring ingenuity. As a keen recycler myself, I am delighted by the detail she shares. May that inspire us to be more thrifty and imaginative, eg with paper, so we have more $ for mission. Thank you, Anne. You have really lifted my spirits today.

Comments are closed.