Giving the gift of life in Cambodia.

Travelling around one of the poorest countries in South East Asia it’s really hard seeing with your own eyes the scale of deprivation and poverty in front of you on the streets. For the first time on our trip, we have seen very young children and breastfeeding women, even with hardly any clothes on their backs, begging.

The problem is, you can’t just give a dollar to everyone who asks. For starters, you have no idea where the money actually goes (probably not to the children or women themselves) and you’d run out of money pretty fast. At big cultural sites in Cambodia, such as Angkor Wat, there are signs advising tourists not to give money or sweets to begging children, stating that this encourages the children to see begging as a better alternative to attending school. This is something that I too feel strongly about.

But we wanted to do something.

In Cambodia, 1 in 77 children dies before their 5th birthday.

Only 4.2% of Khymer adults aged 25+ have completed high school education.

In Siem Reap, there are several large hospitals. Angkor Wat Angkor Wat Children's HospitalChildren’s Hospital is a not-for-profit teaching hospital, working with the Cambodian government to provide high quality, free healthcare to some of the poorest and most disadvantaged children in Cambodia.

Because of social issues in Cambodia, many children face abandonment, sexual abuse and HIV / AIDS. The Angkor Children’s hospital has a social work department that works with families and children to give support for those who need it.

During the Khymer Rouge routine (1975-1979) which targeted educated professionals, Cambodia was left with less than 50 doctors in the whole country.  Angkor Childrens Hospital is committed to providing continuing health education to medical professionals and local communities.

Although the hospital works closely with people who are able to donate money to the hospital, the other thing they need is blood.  Due to recent serious outbreaks of Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever and malaria, they are in short supply. Many local people are not able to donate blood due to their own health circumstances – often because of malnourishment or previous disease themselves. So the hospital welcomes donations from healthy people travelling in the area. What better gift to give local children, than the gift of life? I feel fortunate to have two healthy, happy, educated kids and am lucky enough to be able to share the adventure of travel with them. Because of this, I felt that giving blood was a great thing to be able to do.

You don’t need to make an appointment. You can walk in to the Angkor CHildren’s Hospital Information Centre 6 days a week (Monday – Saturday) and they will happily see you there and then and take your blood! The hospital is right in the centre of town, close to the famous Pub Street.

The staff were so friendly and gave us visitor ID lanyards and took us through the hospital to the lab. On just this short walk through the emergency department, outpatient unit and past a few ward areas, you can see the high needs of the people using the hospital.

Just like anywhere else in the world, the hospital needs to check youHealth questionnaire are in good health before you are able to donate your blood. You first complete a confidential health screening questionnaire, and have your blood pressure and Hb checked. They will also screen your donation for infections such as HIV, Hepatitis and syphilis. You need to be contactable in case there are any problems with any of these screening tests.

I then laid down on a comfortable hospital couch and gave the donation. It was professional, painless and very easy. All equipment Making the donationused was sterile and the techniques were to Western standards. The technician taking my blood was friendly and great with the kids, who were fascinated to watch what was happening. I wanted them to be able to watch if they wanted, so that they knew it didn’t hurt and to take away the mystery of such a procedure. Rosie got a bit upset to see the blood coming out and couldn’t quite believe it wasn’t making me sad, as I would be if I’d had an accident and lost that much blood. She was fine though and choose to sit outside the room while we finished off. It took about 15 minutes in total.350mls of the finest red

After the donation, I was left to rest lying down, and was then was given a can of Coke and some cookies – just like in the UK! As we left the department, I was also given a small gift bag containing a T-shirt as a thank you gift.T-shirt goody bag

For those travelling in Cambodia who want to help the community but cannot afford a monetary gift, or who do not have time to commit to a volunteer placement, giving blood is an incredible gift. We did it and it was a very special part of our trip!

If you are not in Cambodia, but would like to help the Angkor Children’s Hospital, please click here for ways that you can support them.

2 thoughts on “Giving the gift of life in Cambodia.”

  1. That’s brilliant, it must be great to know you’ve helped in such a practical way, and you must know a lot more about its benefits than us non medical professionals! I love reading about your travels – such an amazing and brave adventure. 🙂

    1. Thank you Eva. I’m glad you’re enjoying the blog. We don’t have much money to donate to charity on our travels, but donating blood seemed a different, positive way of helping a community in need. I’m glad you enjoyed reading about it and hope that sharing our experience will encourage others to do the same- wherever they are in the world!

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