The fourth large-scale Tzu Chi free clinic in Cambodia was held in Battambang Province. Battambang City is the capital city of Battambang Province, which is located in northwestern Cambodia. It has the highest population in the country’s northern region. With its fertile rice fields, the province is nicknamed, “the rice bowl of Cambodia"; about eighty percent of the local residents depend on farming for a livelihood.
Held in early November 2019, the free clinic offered various specialties, including internal medicine, dental care, Chinese medicine, and ophthalmology. Apart from ophthalmological services, which were held at Battambang Provincial Hospital, the other medical services were held at the EK Phnom Referral Hospital.
Teachers from a local Chinese high school serve as volunteers
The medical team comprised medical volunteers from TIMA (Tzu Chi International Medical Association) chapters in Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Cambodia. Local Tzu Chi volunteers in Cambodia also recruited teachers from Lian Hua Chinese School to serve as volunteers at the free clinic.
“This is the first time our school is assisting an overseas charity group in holding a free clinic. This opportunity is really hard to come by!” said the school’s principal, happily.
Over a hundred volunteers from the local high school provided valuable help at different sections of the free clinic, assisting with registration, guiding patients, translation, etc.
Young man had his tumor removed by Singapore surgeon
At the surgery section, many of the patients suffered from small tumours. Among them was a 20-year-old young man, who had a tumour on his lips.
The man’s father, Suy Minea, said that when his son was born, his lips appeared swollen, and, as the boy grew older, the tumour grew larger, too. When his son was five years old, he took him to a charitable hospital that provided free surgical treatments, and the little boy underwent one surgery.
However, the tumour on his lips did not reduce in size and grew even bigger after that. The doctor told Suy Minea that he was not confident in treating the boy’s condition. Thus, the father gave up seeking treatment for his son. A few days before, they were delighted to learn about the free clinic and the thought of seeking treatment from an overseas doctor reignited their hopes.
Dr. Fong Poh Him, a renowned plastic surgeon from Singapore and head of the TIMA chapter in the island-state, examined the young man, and discovered the latter of having a hemangioma (a benign tumour of blood vessels). As the patient may suffer much blood loss during a surgery to remove such a tumour, not many surgeons are willing to perform this type of surgery.
The young man underwent a successful surgery by Dr. Fong that lasted more than an hour. After his lip tumour was removed, the man felt much more confident of his appearance.
Patients regain clear vision after receiving surgeries
At Battambang Provincial Hospital, Dr. Antonio Say, who hails from the Philippines, headed a seven-member medical team to provide ophthalmological services to the needy patients. On the first day of the free clinic, 33 patients underwent surgical treatments to remove their cataracts or pterygium.
A local Buddhist monk, Ban Sarabai, had his right eye pierced by a wooden splinter in his childhood and has been relying on his left eye since then. He developed an inferiority complex as a result. Dr. Antonio Say brought prosthetic eyes of various sizes to this free clinic and fixed one of them on Ban Sarabai. Although the monk was not used to having a prosthetic in his eye socket, he felt very happy in his heart and his social confidence was enhanced.
By combining its charity and medical resources, Tzu Chi served many sick and needy patients in Cambodia during its three-day free clinic, benefiting many local residents.
Bringing aid and care to physically challenged veterans
Apart from holding the free clinic, Tzu Chi also mobilised a team of 14 volunteers to conduct an aid distribution in a village at Banteay Meanchey, another province in Cambodia located in the far northwest. They set off early in the morning on 1st November 2019, and arrived at the site after taking a three-hour arduous journey along uneven muddy roads.
At the village, a group of veterans clad in neat military uniforms sat in a tent area. Although they were no longer young, they appeared spirited and one could not help but feel a sense of respect towards them.
The distribution event was held at a centre for physically challenged veterans. When the volunteers arrived, the veterans and their family members were already waiting at the site. The locals warmly welcomed the volunteers with happy smiles.
The wife of the eldest son of Cambodian Prime Minster Hun Sen, Mrs. Pich Chanmony Hun Manet, and a group of government officials were present to grace the event. Senior Tzu Chi volunteer in Cambodia Hu Mei Ling shared that these veterans suffered injuries while defending the country’s border and became physically disabled for life as a result.
Besides receiving some subsidies from the government, the veterans’ households also grow crops for a living. Mrs. Hun Manet had specially suggested to Tzu Chi to distribute aid to these former soldiers who had faithfully served the country in the past.
In her speech, Mrs. Hun Manet spoke of how Tzu Chi had collaborated with the Samdech Techo Voluntary Youth Doctor Association (TYDA) several times to help the local residents. She said that Tzu Chi is sincere in helping people and expressed her appreciation and gratitude to the NGO for distributing aid and providing free medical care to the locals.
Besides distributing aid supplies to veterans, Tzu Chi volunteers also provided aid to orphans, homes for the disabled, centres for the elderly, etc.
The typical diet of the people in Cambodia consists of more rice than dishes. There was a village woman who was very happy to receive two sacks of rice, which could feed her family of three for about a month. Her husband stepped on a land mine at work in 1980 and the incident seriously injured his right leg. He was unable to continue his military job due to his physical impairment.
Some 600 needy households received aid supplies from Tzu Chi and the items included 40kg of rice, a blanket and other dried foods. The aid and care from the volunteers warmed the hearts of the local residents. Tzu Chi hoped that the needy locals can emerge from poverty in future and build a better life for themselves and their families.