This post is a collection of photos and a video journal detailing our task of purchasing and bringing medicine from Vietnam to this Vietnamese village in Cambodia, and, in doing so, sharing with you a tiny piece of what life is like for these villagers.
Meeting the Villagers
In early December of 2013 we visited Cambodia for our first mission trip. Part of our time was allocated towards visiting an impoverished Vietnamese village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. The purpose of OBV's visit was for Thuy to use her medical training to see and treat nearly 30 villagers.
As you'll see in the video and photos below, to say that the villagers here live in poor conditions would be an understatement. Families don't have their own house. They live in one long house built out of spare wood pieces that extends from one end of the village to the other; shared walls section off each family. Doors, and thus privacy, are non-existent. The ceilings can barely protect them from the elements. Empty concrete bags taken from the nearby construction sites where the village men work line the walls and are used as a form of insulation. The entire village has electricity for only part of the day, primarily during the hours when women are cooking and families are enjoying time together.
Most of the men find work as low-wage construction workers. According to one villager, new or unskilled men make just $5 USD a day. The average worker makes $8 a day. A skilled and experienced worker can make $10 a day, but it can take a while to get to that level of skill and respect.
Money earned covers the family necessities. Doctor visits are a luxury and are few and far between. Purchasing proper medication is even more rare.
OBV's visit was important to these villagers. Not only did they receive free medical consultation and medication, but they also realized that there are people who care about them, about their plight.
Thuy diagnosed a wide range of basic ailments, many of which would be treated by regular over-the-counter medication that could easily be purchased back in Ho Chi Minh City.
Here's what this entire experience was like.
Buying the Medicine
There's a pharmacy right down the block from our apartment in Ho Chi Minh City. With an approved budget from OBV, we stopped by there with a list of medicine that we wanted to buy. This man had his work cut out for him.
15 minutes and about 1 million VND (approximately $50 USD) later, we had a bag of medicine ready to take to the Vietnamese village in Phnom Penh.
We arrived at the bus station in Phnom Penh. Our medicine are tucked away in the green bag. No problems getting through Cambodian customs.
Linh Doan, director of OBV Cambodia, is clearly excited to see us!
Delivering the Medicines
The next day, we were ready to make our delivery...
...however, we had a slight delay. Phnom Penh was experience heavy rains over the past few days and today was no exception. We couldn't do much until the rain stopped. There would be too much water on the road for the tuk tuk driver to navigate. We waited for a bit for the rain to dissipate.
Once the rain calmed down, we jumped in the tuk tuk and made our way to the village.
One of the villagers and his son happened to stop by the OBV Cambodia house to drop off some metal beams to be used for a minor renovation. The son joined us in the tuk tuk and helped us navigate our way to his village. His name is Hung. He's a cool kid. We befriended each other on the last visit.
We arrive at the village...
...and we make our way inside.
We're greeted by one of the villagers.
We have to avoid the large mud puddles that have formed on the road that leads through the two row of dwellings. The makeshift roofs are porous, and the strong rains from earlier in the day came right through.
We're invited into one of the villager's houses at the end of the road. Its large enough for everyone to sit and receive their medicine.
I'm heavy, so I have to walk along the supporting slats of wood beneath the bamboo strips so as not to risk breaking their floor.
Dispensing the Medicine
Thuy sits down and gets right to work on dispensing the medicine. She first addresses the people already in the room.
For some, only a limited amount of pills are needed to treat their ailments. Thuy opens a bottle and divides up the pills into smaller bags.
Thuy's patients listen attentively to her instructions.
Thuy calls out another name and sifts through her bag to find the right medicine.
This woman receives her prescription and asks Thuy specific questions on how to take it.
Thuy writes down the directions on the box itself to help the woman remember how to take her medication.
Thuy then shows a young mother how to use an inhaler and spacer to treat her son's asthma.
The young boy took to the medicine much easier than expected.
The kids took an interest in all of the photos and videos I was taking with my point-and-shoot camera. I thought they should join me in one of them.
After Thuy finished with giving out all of the prescribed medicines, she took a few extra moments to provide medical consultation to a couple of other villagers who weren't present during our first visit.
Our next visit in January will include follow-up check-ups with the villagers and more medicine being delivered from Vietnam. We're excited to be here and provide this service to these villagers. We're happy that we've earned their trust, and we're glad that OBV can leverage this trust towards working with the villagers to make sure that their daughters grow up in a safe and healthy environment.