Category: Newsletter

Hearts and Hands 2003 Newsletter

On February 1 Barbara Rinehart and Chris Wagner left from Singapore with five United World College (UWC) students and their teacher for a nine day “global giving” trip to Cambodia.  The students, Barbara, and Chris collected clothes, toys, vitamins, school supplies, and monetary donations for the children in the orphanages that we were to visit.  We started our trip as usual overloaded with the goodwill of others, physical as well as emotional. We had several planning meetings but nothing prepared the students for what they saw and experienced.

Once we had gathered our many bags and wound our way through the crush of people in the airport we were picked up by our driver and friend, Mr Phan. He good naturedly loaded us up into his well used van and we took off.  The sites, sounds, smells, and especially the oppressive heat that accosted us as we left the airport was the first indication that we were no longer in Singapore.  One’s first impression of the city is the extreme decay- the buildings in disrepair, the garbage littering the streets, the unpaved or poorly paved main roads. It has an air of neglect.  One can only imagine how beautiful the city must have been at one time with its French colonial architecture. There are  so many moto bikes on the road, bicycles, and a few animal drawn carts.  Many of the motos carry 3 or 4 people, families with babies balancing on the handlebars.  It makes for a very chaotic traffic scene as does the heat and dust.


Our first stop after the hotel is SFODA orphanage. This orphanage houses 60 children.  They have no potable water.  They collect rainwater during monsoon season and also use water that is pumped from the Mekong river and allowed to gravity filtrate in a cement cistern.  There is only one toilet and no shower or bath. Cooking facilities are outside and are very primative.  The washing is done by hand and hung out in the backyard.  There is no grass only a cement parking lot and side.  The building consists of two levels.  The bottom floor has the office, school room, storage, and an eating area.  The top level which is attained by climbing a wood ladder is where the boys and girls sleep in 2 rooms with mats on the floor.  They attend public school for half a day either walking or riding what few bikes they have to get there.  Our UWC students passed out clothes and organized some games for them.  The kids loved all the attention.  They are always smiling and laughing especially at our pronunciation of Khmer.

While in the city we visited Pour Un Sourire d’Enfant, a French run facility that takes 800 children each day from the city dump site, giving them meals, clothes, and sending them to school.  We then went to the city dump and watched the children chasing the trucks jumping into them while still moving in order to get first pick.  Entire families live on the dump.  The French volunteer told us of one girl who had lived on the dump without ever leaving for her entire 20 years.  It is incomprehensible-

We visited two more homes.  CPCDO, Children and Poor Communities Development Organization,  takes children orphaned by AIDS and is small housing about 40 children.  The living conditions are similar to SFODA.  We were able to bring them sports equipment and food and some school supplies.  We also made a return visit to Peaceful Children’s Home I in Sre Ampil and were treated to wonderful dancing and music by the children as well as lunch.  This home is run by the Khmer Foundation for Justice, Peace, and Development.  We met with HE Son Soubert. We were able to bring them the requested basketballs and net as well as donated toys, clothes, and rice.  The UWC boys and the kids had a rousing game after the Khmer boys climbed to the top of the hoop to attach the net.  They grow some of their food and rice.  Of all the places we visited these children were the most natural (they loved the teens).

The city of Battambang was our next destination.  We were invited to assist a day care center by donating supplies and in-servicing the staff (with the director translating) on developmental activities.  This center is the first one organized and run by Sobbhana, a Khmer Women’s organization. There are fifty children aged 3 and 4 who attend during the day.  Their selection is need based.  We loved playing with the children and teaching them songs and games.  It was a wonderful experience watching the teens carrying around the three and four year olds.  There were some great relationships started despite the language barrier.  Barbara and Chris took bicylcles and pedaled into the surrounding country side to deliver donated clothing to the villagers.  What an incredible site to see their happy faces. They live with the bare minimum in houses off the ground made of grasses and wood.  There is usually only one large room for a family.

Sobbhana has another project on site as well.  They are training some of the young girls who have no education to weave silk.  They raise the silk worms, dye the silk, spin it and then weave it into cloth.  The silk worms are raised in huts and they are indigenous to Cambodia. They produce gold cocoons.  The UWC students helped to put up one of the silk worm huts at the home of one of the young girls.  Eventually it should provide a good income for them.

We left after three days for Siem Reap.  We took two boats on the river to the Tonle Sap lake and across it to Siem Reap. February is the dry season and the river was low so we had to take smaller boats until we got to the lake.  There we boarded a larger boat with more passengers.  There are many people that live along the river.  We passed house boats with not much room to spare.  Some of them were roped together forming a long chain. It was a hectic scene upon arrival.  We had to cross several makeshift bridges (planks) to get to our destination. We were met by our driver who guided us through the maze of vendors, helping carry our luggage down two narrow ramps and through another boat to dry land.  We visited Angkor Hospital for Children where part of our medical mission takes place. This is a Western run hospital that eventually will be operated by the Khmer staff that they are training.  We were able to leave them with a monetary donation.  The rest of our short visit was spent touring the magnificent ruins of Angkor including sunset and sunrise.

The trip left us with many great memories that we will treasure.  It also brought the realities of life in a developing country into the lives of our students.  We will remember most the beautiful smiles of the children, and the gratitude and joy of those we helped if only for a brief moment.  We bought fruit, rice, sport, and school supplies for all the homes and even made bread with the children of Peaceful Children’s Home I.  We were able to give a monetary donation to refurbish a school and buy some furniture.  We also donated supplies and a sewing machine to the day care center as well as funding a loom.

Thank you- To UWC for their monetary donation and for the students who enriched the lives of all they met.

Hearts and Hands 2002 Newsletter

Our second mission took place on May 8-12, 2002.  We arrived at the airport with about 38 boxes.  Several US Navy men assisted us with the loading and transport of these boxes from Ivey and Chris’s homes to the airport by way of a truck and a van.  We are especially grateful to them for waiting until we got the OK from Silk Air to take 30 of the boxes.  They graciously took the other 8 boxes back for storage.  We finally made it on the plane with little time to spare!
Upon arrival it took some time to gather all the boxes and make our way through immigration.  We were met by Dr. Say Sengly and Sotia Hok.  Unfortunately there was no transport for our medical and orphanage supplies, however Sotia came through for us and managed to secure a truck.  Finally we were off.

Our medical team consisted of Dr. Fong Poh Him, Dr.Ling Sing Yew, Dr. Tan Geok Mui, Dr. Pua Hwee Leng, Dr. Margaret Leow, Dr. Charles Johnson, Dr. Tham (Wong Siew Nee), Mrs. Leong Wah Peck, Ms. Vilsa de la Cruz, Ms. Michelle Gran Aberin, and our med students, Kao Yung Shiang, Mohammed idu Bin Jion, and Ho Ming Li. They headed to Municipal Hospital where they prepared the OT and began to triage and screen patients for the day’s surgery.

The rest of us, Dr. Lee Oi Kum, Theresa Johnson, Alex Ng, Zainab Wong, Nick Huang, Chris Wagner, Adriane Wagner, Rebecca Wagner, Wong Siew Kin, and Ivey Peterson; settled into the hotel and then off to the hospital and DOFRA, Development Organization for Family Relief and Assistance. This is an NGO run by Sam Kamsann.  He distributes goods and food to people in need.  He also runs a computer school free of charge to those who can not pay.  He graduated his first class recently.  Dr. Lee Oi Kum and her son Alex helped him by giving him several computers and English programs.  They also worked with Sok Sabay helping to get them started on using their MacIntosh lap top computers.  We also made our first visit to SFODA, Sacrifice Families and Orphans Development Association.  This orphanage houses 60 children in very poor conditions.    We purchased fruit and distributed some of the goods we brought to their children.  Later in the week we returned with Dr. Johnson and Dr. Tham assisted by Mohammed who examined the children and distributed medication, advice and vitamins. Some of the volunteers played with the children, blowing bubbles, playing with tennis balls and doing an art project with the donated supplies.  We were later able to purchase four bicycles for them so the children would have some transportation.
Those at the hospital had a challenging time. Our first mission to Phnom Penh took place in a new Operating Theater (OT).  It had not been used because they did not have the money to equip it.  It worked quite well for us as we brought in the equipment we needed.  However this time we were moved to the older wing of the hospital into the Opthamology OT due to the fact that the hospital was being remodeled and the new OT had been temporarily taken over by the hospital’s laboratory and offices.  This made for some confusion.  Our patient population wasn’t quite what we had been led to expect either in numbers or in types of surgical cases.  We still felt the mission to be a success due to the fact that  it brought our staff to work with the Cambodian doctors and nurses, giving them the opportunity to increase their knowledge and improve their skills.  We stopped the surgeries Friday mid-day and then were able to take our medical staff to visit several orphanages and centers around Phnom Penh. Two of our doctors also did surgical cases and gave lectures at King Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE.
The orphanage visits continued with the Nutrition Center.   This is a government sponsored facility which houses a variable number of moderate to severely handicapped children from ages four to adult as well as HIV positive babies and children. We also distributed stuffed toys and played with the children.  We also visited with Claire, our friend from Singapore, and Pei, the child she sponsors at the Center.


We had a brief visit with Geraldine’s Sunrise Children’s Village in their temporary quarters.  Geraldine has written a book about her life and the orphanage, which will soon be made into a movie.  She is in the process of raising funds to build a new facility on donated land to house her 55 children.  We were also able to give them donated art supplies and other goods.

On Saturday most of us took a trip to Peaceful Children’s Home I.  This home houses over 100 children in the countryside outside Phnom Penh.  They treated us to lunch and then gave us a wonderful music and dance performance.  It included some international songs as well as traditional Cambodian ones.  We were asked to reciprocate.  Fortunately we had talent in our group; Zainab helped us to sing a traditional Malay song.  Dr. Fong spoke to the group from his heart and they much appreciated his words.  $500 was donated to the home on behalf of Singapore’s United World College to help pay for school uniforms for the children.
Some of the team was able to get in a little sight-seeing which included Toul Sleng, the prison used during the Khmer Rouge period and the Killing Fields.  Also the palace and museum were visited.  Rebecca demonstrated her magical talents in the museum when she beat the drums causing the sky to turn dark and creating a fierce wind!   According to the guide this means that she has royal blood.

On Sunday some of the team returned to Singapore while the rest of us met up with a group already in Siem Reap.  We toured the Vietnamese and Cambodian floating villages, and saw as much of Angkor Wat as we could.  We even got up to watch sunrise!  We also had an opportunity to visit Angkor Hospital for Children and the director Jon Morgan.  $500 was donated to them to help with operating costs.

This was the first time we traveled with such a large group.  It was hectic at times but everyone contributed in their own way to a very successful trip.

Thank you! We could not have successfully completed the trip without assistance from everyone who donated medical and orphanage supplies.  We especially want to thank Triprint, the company that donated our first “Singapore Medical Mission” T-shirts.  KC DAT donated all the boxes and packing material we needed to get our supplies to Cambodia.  Finally, a special thank you to United World College of Southeast Asia for their most generous donation of S$4,000 to help the orphanages and our medical mission.

Hearts and Hands 2001 Newsletter

Our first Cambodian Medical Mission took place August 15- 19, 2001.  After much advance preparation we were finally on our way.  We split into 2 medical teams.

The first team headed to Siem Reap to work in cooperation with Angkor Hospital for Children under the administration of Jon Morgan.    This team headed by Dr. Foo Chee Liam consisted of Dr. Phua Kong Boo, Dr. Lu Kuo-Fan Mark, Dr Anette Sundfor Jacobsen, Dr. Tan Poh Ann Anne, Ms. Michelle Gran Aberin, Dr. Tan Geok Mui, and Mr. Justin Kendrick. They performed 10 cases.  These included an emergency laparotomy for ileal perforation on a 10 year old child that had fallen from a tree, 3 cleft lip repairs and a cleft palate repair, 2 burn contracture releases, an excision of a lipoma and minithoracotomy for empyema.  Dr. Tan also was able to assist the radiology department with instruction in the use of the ultrasound machine. The team was able to visit and distribute goods to an orphanage associated with the hospital, Orphanage Les Enfants D’Angkor as well as tour the magnificent Angkor temple ruins.

A second team headed to the capital city of Phnom Penh.  There we worked with Dr. Veng Thai, Director of the Municipal Health Department and Dr. Say Sengly, Director of Municipal Hospital.  We closely partnered with Dr. Graham Gumley, Director of King Sihanouk Hospital Center of HOPE, and his assistant Sotia Hok.  To whom we owe much gratitude for all they did to help facilitate this project.

This team was headed by Dr. Fong Poh Him, and consisted of Dr. Lim Tan Soo Kim, Dr. Ling Sing Yew, Dr. Chong Jin Long, Dr. Ng Bee Koon, Mr. Chin Kian Hee, Ms. Chin Floju, Ms. Chin Flora, Ms. Chua Su Yin, Ms Tan Suat Lay, Mr. Suradi bin Yusoop, Mrs. Tan Sheau Yen Helen, Ms. Iris Tan , Ivey Peterson and Christine Wagner. Twenty-three surgeries were performed in Municipal Hospitals new OR’s including cleft lip repairs, a burn scar contracture release, surgical scar revisions, a syndactaly separation and the removal of minor skin tumors.  The medical team was able to partner with the Cambodian surgeons and nurses, establish a working relationship and provide an opportunity for them to improve their skills.  We also were able to donate medicine and equipment for the hospitals future use.

An additional team headed by Dr. Lim Tan Soo Kim, was able to visit 4 area orphanages, SFODA, Nutrition Center, Sok Sabay, and Sunrise Children’s Village..  Dr. Phua Kong Boo was able to deliver medicine and perform some medical examinations as well.  We were able to deliver clothes, shoes, biscuits, toys, books, school supplies, and vitamins as well as the medicines.  Mr. Chin kept the children entertained with his magic tricks. The children enjoyed the attention and gifts they received from their Singaporean visitors and we in turn enjoyed the musical and dance performance Sok Sabay and Sunrise Children’s Village gave us. We were able to bring 35 boxes with us into Phnom Penh, 20 of which contained goods for the orphanages.  We would like to thank our donors for their generosity and caring spirit.  They have brightened the lives of many Khmer children and given them hope.

Mr. Peter Loh, Triple K. Enterprise, Batu Pahat (T-shirts), Jecki Pharmacy, Johor Bahru (medicine and vitamins), Dr. Seah Hood Paw, Johor Bahru (medicine), Mr. and Mrs. Yong Kwai Fatt, Singapore ($500, for medicine), Mr. Lim Shin Pang and Mr. Lim Shin Weng, Johor Bahru ($500, sutures), Highway Motor Workshop, Johor Bahru (clothing and shoes), Namya Rubber and Plastic Manufacturer (slippers), Silk Air (extra baggage allowance for transport of 35 boxes of goods), Johnson and Johnson (medical testing supplies), Oral B (toothbrushes), Gilette (toothpaste), Khong Guan B

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