August 28 2014By Holly Winman
2013 NT100 ‘One to Watch’ project, Watsi recently visited Phnom Penh to see how its donors are re-stitching healthcare in post-conflict Cambodia.
This blog was originally written by Watsi’s Grace Garey and posted here.
Everyone we met in Cambodia had a story of war. It’s only been 30 years since the Khmer Rouge tortured, executed, and starved two million people. The memories are fresh. But incredibly, everyone we met is turning those stories of war into stories of hope.
“I came here in 1992,” Jim, a former Red Cross surgeon, told us. “The place was the worst I’d ever seen. The public health system was destroyed. Hospitals were burned down. Doctors had fled. If you got sick, you just stayed home and hoped you got better.”
Jim’s hospital, Children’s Surgical Centre (CSC), is now run by 80 Cambodian doctors and nurses. The average surgery costs them $300 to provide. But they partner with organisations like Watsi to make sure patients can access care for free. “Why is it important that everyone has access to healthcare, even if they can’t pay?” we asked him. “Because people are human,” he said.
Ly Sivpy survived war and polio. Now, he welcomes 18,000 patients to CSC each year. “What’s your official title?” we asked him. “My job is to be happy!” he exclaimed, and flashed his 100 watt smile.
Dr. Ngiep is a surgeon at CSC who went into medicine for a simple reason. “Most of the medical staff in Cambodia were killed during the war,” he said. “After the war, if you got sick, it was hard to find someone who could help you. I wanted to be someone who could help.” Dr. Ngiep now helps 400 patients per year.
Samnang manages the Watsi program at CSC. “The war was chaos for my family,” he told us. “But afterwards, people supported me. Watsi lets me do the same thing for our patients. I can share their information with the world. People will support them.” Samnang has helped 384 patients receive support through Watsi.
In CSC’s ophthalmology wing, it costs $100 to cure blindness. “If you have one person who can’t see, it affects the whole family,” Dr. Ro, the head of the optometry department, told us. “Kids miss school because they have to lead their grandparents around on a stick. Eye surgery changes that. It costs very little, but it helps people very much.”