This is a blog post to recount the 2019 SMSV Outreach trip to Cambodia, Battambang partnered with A Call To Share (ACTS) written by the team members. We are writing to you from the COVID-19 era, which has brought 2020’s trips to a halt.
Meme found when googled “please read”, from: https://makeameme.org/meme/if-you-could-5a9569
Details of the trip
Location: Cambodia, Siem Reap, Battambang
Dates: 7th to 16th Dec (8-13 is main mission + 14-16 is RnR)
Student roles: Team fundraising, trip-planning, medication packing, clinic and dispensary work
Notes: we collect 800 AUD from students at the start of the year to pay for the various logistics
Organisation and beneficiaries and goals
We work with ACTS (A Call To Share) Cambodia Siem Reap, a Singapore-based Catholic organization who organise Mission trips to many countries – Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia. Their goal is to share the joy of service with both the participants and beneficiaries of their trip. The team includes students, doctors and community volunteers who come from all walks of life.
This is the whole 2019 team (including non-student participants) at Battambang Parish
As a secular medical team attending a Catholic Mission, some may find it a culture-shock when we have to wake up early for morning Mass and attend evening prayers. However, over the years we have come to appreciate and respect their values. The experience may be slightly confusing but students just sit down and observe quietly at the back.
Meme found when googled “keep quiet cute” https://cheezburger.com/2371808000
This year was SMSV’s 5th year in a row joining ACTS to Battambang! We are proud to preserve the trip’s continuity, which has helped to facilitate better communication and understanding between participants and beneficiaries.
We are grateful to have been given this opportunity to work with ACTs. They have helped organise logistics for the trip and displayed transparency in their management of funds, such as disclosing financial statements and sharing cost breakdowns. ACTs has been working with the local Battambang Parish (and its medical center) and the Salesian Sisters (who work with disadvantaged women in the local community) for many years. You can read more about the Salesian Sisters and their cause here: http://www.salesiansisterscambodia.com/p/battambang.html
The Salesian Sisters :”) We love you.
Team and Fundraising
This year, our team comprised of two Y3s, three Y2s and 10 Y1s. It is to be noted that we are extremely pre-clinical friendly but need several clinical years to oversee various aspects of the clinics.
Fundraising is a big part of missions and other than trip planning, it is our agenda all year long. Our aim was to earn >$700 this year and we well surpassed it, raising AUS$1103.72 (net). The events we held included selling beehoon for the annual NDP 2019 screening, selling snacks and roses for Nightfest 2019 and also a bake sale at 27 rainforest walk.
Photos from fundraising:
NDP, flower sales and bake sales
Towards the end of the year, we worked on other aspects of the trip, listed below.
- Medication packing and distribution
- Getting medications from medical doctors going on the trip
- Distribution to students to pack to bring overseas. Students can start packing the medications and labelling as well
- When in battambang, there are 2 days to prepare for the actual Mission, which is to pack the medications and other logistics necessary for use in clinics.
- Pre-trip learning for some medications and clinical skills for students (esp Y1s)
- Attending ACTs briefings in Singapore
- RnR planning
The Mission (Finally!!)
There were two parts to this ACTs trip – Medical and Community Engagement. We were responsible for the medical aspect of the trip (logistics and all) but we also participated in the village community engagement projects, organised by the other Singaporean volunteers.
A sample micro-itinerary of each day
The medical aspect of the trip is run by medical students and doctors. This year we worked closely alongside SMSUNSW. The doctors who joined us were from an array of specialities and worked in both the private and public sector.
We visited a series of locations in Siem Reap to set up a temporary clinic and pharmacy. Villagers often have many unmet health concerns due to the limited access and affordability of healthcare. We found that the clinics were well-received by locals and additionally busy this year. Students rotated through several roles such as doctor’s assistant, triage and dispensary. Students also had to learn some basic pharmacology to better assist with dispensary.
A makeshift consultation room and dispensary in a community birthing center.
Next, we took part in community engagement, the non-medical aspect that is run by non-medical participants.The students were tasked to participate in non-medical village visits for 1-2 days during the trip, where they either painted or joined in educational activities in village schools such as sports or basic English lessons. The children were very, very adorable and so excited to interact with the volunteers.
In the villages, we were privileged to eat food home-cooked by locals and speak to the caretakers of the schools we visited, who were often from the local parish. They usually liaise with ACTs on their needs for community engagement e.g. repainting walls.
Furthermore, every year, the medical students have put on a performance! Woohoo right! So we practiced dancing and singing throughout the trip – luckily for us we had skilled dancers and chorale talents this year. We even performed with a really cool Geriatrician this year in the chorale segment.
Ah yes, owned it (all footage since deleted)
Shoutout: An amazing part of our trip every year is meeting the translators who work with us in the clinics. They are often local university students who volunteer to facilitate patient communication in the clinic. Every year we rely on them immensely and are thankful for their participation.
Ah yes, the glorious RnR. Honestly, it was extremely fun. We travelled Pub Street in Siem Reap and experienced Angkor Wat. We shopped for elephant pants, took photos and ate great food. Good vibes and memories all around 🙂
Pub Street Night Market
To the future reader:
You may have some misgivings over volunteering overseas. It’s true that overseas missions can be somewhat controversial and no trip will be perfect. Therefore, it is important to work with an organisation that can demonstrate trustworthy qualities and one that actively tries to liaise with local organisations to understand their needs. It is difficult to objectively quantify how much ‘good’ or ‘harm’ results from going for such a trip. However, during the trip, we were conscious of respecting the locals’ opinions. We felt that our beneficiaries understood our sincerity and responded positively. Speaking frankly, it is also a cathartic experience to try your best in something that doesn’t revolve around studies or job prospects.
Ultimately, it is important to manage expectations and to be humble in our inadequacies. We are always determined to improve the next trip. If this trip ever opens again, I hope you will read this post and consider joining.
Shout out to the 2019 team:”)
Meeting for CNY meal in Sg
This is the end
This ends our account of 2019’s trip. It was really special to us, so we are really glad to share it with you. If you are that one reader who has reached the end, thank you!
Meme found when googled “no views” From: https://imgflip.com/i/2mu26m