Last year, we came to Siem Reap for our first health mission at Bayon School, but we unfortunately only stayed for 2 weeks. The outcome of this “short” stay was however positive; thanks to the daily lunch, the children were overall in good shape (we can even say some were very energetic!). Nevertheless, their teeth were in bad condition. We left Cambodia in 2017 with the project of coming back and implementing dental treatments for the children.
When we came back in January 2018, we were very excited and moved to once again see the school and the children.
The discussions with the team in Siem Reap acted as an incentive for us to cover more than just dental issues. We first finished the medical check-ups (started in October by Laurence) before doing some hygiene training in class as well as some dental hygiene training to both children and teachers. We also controlled and replenished the stock of medicines. As we were staying longer this year, we managed to get in touch with different local organizations working on health (for example the Red Cross…) and we got to know more about those. Our western mindset had led us to believe that all would go quickly, but we then discovered the Khmer pace, which is smoother and slower. In the end, to make all our missions come to life it took us nearly 3 months… which we gladly spent here, of course!
This experience has truly been fulfilling; it was an important immersion in the Khmer culture. We have met some great people and we have built strong relationships with the team in Siem Reap. We also felt that the children started caring about us too. Every day we were going to the primary school to cure their every scratch. For many of them, these moments were the opportunity to express themselves, to laugh and play – true moments of happiness for both the patients and the doctors! We were quite popular, if the long queue in front of the infirmary was anything to go by. Some even made up slight injuries just to get to wear a nice Band-Aid (which would disappear the next day, of course…). The happiness of the children has really moved us. What a pleasure to see them play around after lunch! Those moments are sacred because it is a time they use to escape from the reality of their tough lives back home. We also had a memorable moment when we came back from the dentist with the children… which meant accommodating 9 kids in our tuk-tuk!
We were thinking about taking a touristic break this year but we did not find the time. Besides, we must keep some excitement for next year and the years to come, as we’ve already committed to come back so as to continue following the children, training the families, conducting a vaccination campaign… and for many other things!
The final days are now upon us and we feel both nostalgic and hopeful, as we know we will be back. In the end, our best reward and our best memories will remain… the children’s smiles!”
Jean-Pierre & Michèle Lebois