Medical students served Cambodian villagers during a recent trip conducted by ACTS
A group of medical students from the National University of Singapore and James Cook University in Queensland, Australia, went on a mission trip to Battambang, Cambodia recently.
Battambang is the third largest city in the country.
Led by Dr Gladys Wong and Dr Damian Png, coordinator for ACTS (A Call To Share) Cambodia, the June 29-July 5 trip was to determine the needs of the villages around the city and to assess what further support they needed.
ACTS, a multi-parish missionary group, is also exploring the feasibility of organising teams of surgeons to support the health-care system in Battambang province.
The group visited the nuns and students of the Don Bosco school there as well as the Petyleychee Health Centre.
According to ACTS, the Cambodians shared their food, hopes and dreams with the visitors.
The visitors were moved to hear of the people’s painful experiences during the Khmer Rouge regime.
One nun, Sr Mary Ange, described it as “years of unimaginable suffering and misery” from which the country has yet to recover.
The group also met Msgr Enrique Figaredo, the Jesuit apostolic prefect of Battambang, who is known for his work with landmine victims and handicapped. He shared his vision of what could be done to improve the lives of the impoverished Cambodians.
Education is the solution, he said, because literacy and knowledge empower people and that is why there is much collaboration with the National Education System.
The ACTS group, which included three doctors, one of whom was a Lutheran surgeon, divided themselves into two teams.
One ran medical clinics at the provincial prison, at Omar village and at Nikum and Chitill Centres. The other joined an outreach group to assess the needs of far-flung villages.
According to ACTS, the reception given by the villagers was overwhelming. It was apparently the second time that the Omar villagers had seen doctors and the group was swamped by 430 patients in a single day.
Besides carrying out basic surgery, the visitors also saw a wide variety of medical conditions and tried to put in place a system to follow up on chronic illnesses.
One memorable experience for the group was attending Mass in a rickety church made of wood and coconut palms, with the rain pattering on the aluminium roof.
At the end of the trip, the visitors resolved to return soon to offer their services again.