Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Clinic

Hello All,

New Construction of Lake Clinic
This week the floating health clinic has taken a big step forward. The prefabricated building is nearing competition and is now bolted down to the floating platform (see photo of clinic and TLC1). Things have gone very well except we hit some snags with the construction of the bathroom so we will be completing it ourselves, as some of the aesthetics were lost in translation.

Bathrooms here are purely functional
New Clinic and TLC1
and on the lake they often consist of a simple frame on the back of a building covered with boards, tarps or rice sacks and one or two boards over the water and presto you have, as they say here ...a happy room. It goes without saying that this is an environmental faux pas. Health is the main focus of The Lake Clinic (TLC) along with education, disease prevention and assisting villagers with the use and maintenance of bio sand filters. The TLC wants to lead by example and so we are going to be containing water hyacinths, which are floating aquatic plants that grow like weeds here and containing them in a tank under the bathroom. The hyacinths will capture and treat the waste in an ultra low tech, cheap and easily replicated manner. Jon Morgan, the founder of TLC, is in contact with a man who has done his PHD on the water quality on the lake; his simple method of using these plants, that are voracious feeders, will quickly turn the effluent/black water to near grey water quality, not perfect but eons closer to a solution in this harsh environment with no power and miles from anywhere.

Thatched hovels
Each day we head out to the Port where the clinic is being built. As we travel through town, by the beautiful hotels and into the countryside the poverty slowly starts to emerge and by the time we are in the Port area it is hammering at your senses. The crowded, thatched hovels are crammed together over or on the edge of the lake; the dirt/mud road deteriorates into a bone jarring ride, some days we have to walk as the road is too rough. The heat, smell of rotting fish, dust and lack of toilets
On their way to school
make this a very sad place. Small children play happily in the polluted water not realising what contaminates this water holds, while others pick their way along in bare feet on the way to school (see photos). Every day we are reminded that life can be so unfair and it helps to know that together we are all assisting those that have been placed in these untenable situations.

The doctors, nurses and midwives of TLC have been facing challenges of their own of late. A few weeks ago the TLC 1 lost it transmission; a replacement is on order from Vietnam and still in transit. This has a huge impact on the clinic staff as they have to transport themselves and their gear on a much smaller boat; towing cooking material, medical equipment in an even smaller boat behind. It is getting hot here, 30 plus each day. The teams are putting in long days treating patients then sleeping and eating wherever they can find space on other boats, schools or floating homes for four days a week, basically camping on the lake. We have been out on the lake several times over the years and at the best of times it can be an endurance test. The floating clinic will be going even further afield to the Stung Sen River; with the TLC 1 out of commission that area is not being served at all at present. To say we are inspired by Jon’s vision and commitment to health care and the TLC staff is an understatement; we, the staff and no doubt the villagers are all eagerly awaiting the completion and delivery of the new clinic to serve the Stung Sen area.

Wishing you and yours all the best,

Thanks for your support,

Rick and Adrianne

Friday, January 20, 2012

Buildings, Books and Bumpercars

Hello Everyone,

Hope all is well with you and yours.

The prefab building for the floating clinic is coming along and will soon be transported and assembled on the deck of the platform, we are having a bathroom and shower built as well. In the meantime we are assembling the cooking supplies, mats, coolers etc as well as coordinating the installation of solar panels, wiring and plumbing. We will soon update this project again with more photos.

The addition to the girl's home is moving along as well; with the concrete structure almost complete and the brickwork well under way. As we visit the girl’s and check on the progress of the project we realize how cramped for space they are so we are all waiting for the completion of the new space with great anticipation.

Kompong Cham School
We took a trip to Kompong Cham, another province to the south, about a five hour drive from where we are. We went to a small isolated village on the bank of the Mekong River. We were there many years ago with a young girl whose family ran the guest house where we used to stay. We decided to return with the same Cambodian family, who are now our good friends, to assist the children of the village with educational supplies. To get to the village we had to take a small ferry across the Mekong River, the ferry only held six cars, we had three full of supplies. The village is picturesque, surrounded by pastoral farmlands, banana trees and shaded roads however the bottom line is the same, schooling is difficult to achieve for many children and the people are very poor. The woman who runs the Guest House grew up in the village and lost her brother during the Khmer Rouge regime, when she was young she worked very hard as a child, especially during the Pol Pot times. She and her family now run a very successful business and own two guest houses in Siem Reap, she wanted to give back to her village. Together we pooled funds to provide exercise books, pens, pencils, crayons and a treat for over 1000 children. On our arrival we were met by the teachers and students. They had prepared a ceremony for us and were very excited to have visitors and receive the school materials; after handing out the piles and piles of supplies we walked around the school. The principal explained that in the rainy season the school has to close for a few months as the classrooms are flooded and everyone in the village uses boats to travel from A to B. Hard to believe the red dusty roads turn into small canals, this explains why all the houses are built on stilts. The school was having problems with their water pump for their well and so we were able to purchase a new one; K.I.D.S. also bought a few tables for their library, so the children can sit and read. It was nice to see the children walking and riding their bikes home tightly holding their new materials and smiling. It was also great to see Cambodian people reaching out to assist their own and supporting education.

Sopeak and family
We have been going out to visit some of the children KIDS supports with education in the countryside. Last year you may remember a young woman named Sopeak, who we have been assisting with school, she is very bright and incredibly dedicated; she also has a hearing problem that we were able to improve with a hearing aide. We were waiting for some ear surgeons from France who volunteer annually here to see if they could help her, but due to a miscommunication she missed the opportunity in October. We hope they will return to Cambodia soon as her hearing is still deteriorating. We took a ride out to her home, which is about 15k outside the city. Her family met us with smiles and fresh coconuts from their garden. Sopeak is still doing extremely well in school, out of 66 children she is number 6 in her class, she is also progressing well in English and we had a nice chat about school and life in the countryside. She continues to put in 12 hour days riding 30 k each day to and from Khmer and English school, some of that trip is at night in the dark as there is no electricity in her village area, once home she studies by the light of the solar lamp that was donated for her last year. Her father was home, as he left his job in Phnom Penh, a city hundreds of kilometres from his village, where he had been making furniture for a few years, and only able to come home a few times a year. The factory stopped paying him a salary and expected him to work for room and board and so he has now come home to try and find a job and be closer to his family; he is a hard working man. His wife does her best with 5 children by growing vegetables and bananas to eat and sell; they live in a small one room house with a thatched roof (see attached photo, Sopeak in red shirt). Due to the families financial difficulties two of Sopeak’s younger teenage sisters have now had to quit school and work in town at the local massage places to try and help support the family, we are working on solutions to get them back in school. They are a close, loving family and everyone pulls their weight as best they can in the face of difficult odds. With donations we are going to provide them with a new well, as theirs is becoming unusable, buy the father a phone so he can look for work and buy another bike for the children; transportation and communication can improve life greatly in the countryside.
At the fair
On a happy note we took all the girls from the girl’s home and a group of boys who live at a safe house that we assist, to a fair that was in town. All together there were about 30 of us. The kids had a fantastic time, they mostly loved the trampoline and the bumper cars, the small ones rode around on the baby bumper cars...great fun. It is hard to believe these kids can jump for 30 minutes in 34 degree humid weather and want to keep jumping; everyone was hot, sweaty and happy on the ride home.

We will write again soon about the other projects. As always thanks for making this all possible.


Adrianne and Rick

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Buildings and Bikes

Hello Everyone,
Mobile Health Clinic
We hope all is well and the New Year is off to a good start. We thought we would write and give you a quick update on the progress of the Mobile Health Clinic and the addition to the Girl’s Home. The clinic is progressing very well; the welding of the steel floatation is now finished as is the wooden platform and railings around the perimeter. Work has also begun on the prefabricated building that will be brought down to the port, assembled and bolted down to the deck. The Lake Clinic staff are very happy to have this clinic built and we are working closely with them to identify their needs regarding the function of the clinic. In speaking with the doctors, nurses and midwives they are looking forward to having a permanent facility where they can treat those in need and stay in a comfortable place while working in this isolated area. We are planning to tow the clinic to its location on the Stung Sen River in a few weeks, about a 24 hour trip (no doubt an adventure), not sure how were getting back???
Addition to the Girl's Home
The addition to the Girl’s Home is coming along with the foundations and first floor support columns complete and the forming of the second floor and support beams well under way. These projects are providing work and training for many Khmer (Cambodian) people. With the construction of the Girl’s Home, the building of the clinic and work on an addition to the building we live, which starts early and goes 7 days a week, life seems to be one big cloud of dust and noise.
We took the girl’s out and bought them some new, higher quality bikes as the ones we purchased two years ago have seen many kilometres and the constant repairs were starting to add up each month. We have connected with the girl’ several times now and they are progressing well in their studies and with their English. It is hard to believe how the girl’s are growing. The older ones seemed so small a few years ago and now several of them are teenagers. We have known many of them for years and it is hard to believe that they once lived such difficult and tragic lives. They are now healthy, bright eyed, happy and keen to study and learn. We believe that this model of small groups of abandoned children and youth coming together to live as a family is so much better than living in large orphanages and the closeness of the girls is wonderful to see, they are truly a family.
After retrieving Srey Poan from the border we told her mom that we would assist her and the remaining children somehow. So we went to the market and purchased a bicycle, fish paste and various other sundries so she could make Khmer soup and transport it to sell at local market for a profit. We also purchased two bags of organic fertiliser to give the current juvenile rice crop a good start; as you recall in our last email the family lost their first rice crop to the floods a couple of months ago. With this leg up the family will hopefully be able to tide themselves over until the current rice crop matures. They were very grateful for the assistance.
We have attached photos of the clinic platform awaiting the building, the some of girl's the house mother and cook in front of the formwork of the girl's home.
We thank you for your kind messages and best wishes and will continue to keep you posted.
Warmest regards,
Rick and Adrianne