Healing in Cambodia

56 comments

The past month has been a difficult time. Lee and I struggled to work through our relationship problems whilst cooped up together 24/7, and I reached a personal all-time low on the road, feeling detached and isolated, and dearly missing my family and friends back home. It has been the hardest month on the road so far, and was amplified by a severe case of cabin fever following our six-week stint on the tiny island of Koh Tao. Despite staying in Torre DeRoche’s dream of a bungalow, in the end we decided to leave two weeks ahead of schedule, in the hope that a change of scenery would help clear away some of the fog.

koh-tao-view

I will miss that view though

One long journey via night boat, bus, train and minivan later, we finally found ourselves in the indomitable Kingdom of Cambodia. A surge of heat bore down upon us as we made our way from the border crossing to Siem Reap, along busy roads filled with every mode of transport imaginable, from horses to bicycles to Lexus trucks to mopeds with live pigs strapped on the back. Cambodia was dusty, parched, and alive, and I felt myself connect with her right away; a country still healing, still growing, still moving forward.

Siem Reap has been the perfect place to relax and try and release some of the emotional baggage we have been carrying with us for so long now. Colourful, welcoming and pulsing with life, it’s hard not to get caught up in its energy. Our first few days have simply been spent taking things easy; working on graphic design projects, enjoying delicious meals in local restaurants with cool Angkor beers, and numerous hours spent ambling through the scorching tree-lined streets.

As we made our way back to our hotel a few days ago after an incredible time spent at Angkor Wat, we noticed a sign on the street outside the Angkor Hospital for Children urgently requesting blood donations. Too exhausted to go in following our trip, we immediately decided to return the next day.

I have never given blood before, and would be lying if I said I wasn’t apprehensive about what the conditions would be like in the hospital, but my fears were quelled as soon as we walked through the tall green gates into the immaculate grounds, filled with nervous parents and tiny patients waiting to be seen. As we passed tears and laughter and prosthetics, I knew we were doing the right thing.

The hospital itself is big, modern and spotless, teeming with perfectly uniformed staff and smiling faces. How is it that sick children can still be so full of joy? It’s a skill I seem to have forgotten with age, and was humbled to witness.

angkor-smile

See what I mean?! Image via Angkor Hospital for Children

We were shown to the haematology department where blood donations are made in a small, pristine room that looks onto the blood lab. A gentle and polite young doctor took our blood pressure and a small blood sample to check we were eligible, and within minutes we had been given the all clear.

lee-blood

Lee giving blood

hannah-blood

Followed by me

The actual process of giving blood was incredibly efficient and painless. A small 350ml bag of blood was taken from each of us, after which we were generously presented with a “gift from the hospital” – a bag filled with a can of coke, a T-shirt, multivitamins and a box of crackers! It couldn’t have been easier, safer, or more worthwhile.

For a country still healing, it was an honour to be able to contribute towards this process in some small way. I hope my donation will help repay the healing that Cambodia is already offering me.

::

National statistics for blood donors within Cambodia are alarmingly low. Last year the Angkor Hospital for Children in Siem Reap received just 1449 donations. Though this is a significant improvement on the meagre 645 donations made in 2005, the need is still critical. If you plan on visiting Siem Reap, or any other part of Cambodia, please consider helping them build on these numbers.

give-blood

How could you say no to those faces?!

Founded in 1999 by renowned Japanese photographer Kenro Izu, Angkor Hospital for Children provides free medical care for all, even providing free transport to those living further afield. In a country where almost one-third of the population live on less than $1.25 a day (the poverty benchmark), this kind of provision is essential.

The hospital receives a small portion of funding from the Cambodian government, but for the most part relies solely on private donations. If you are in Siem Reap you can drop by their Visitor’s Centre and donate blood, money, or simply find out more information at their compound on Tep Vong Street.

Even if you don’t plan on passing through Cambodia any time soon, you can still help support the Angkor Children’s Hospital in a number of ways:

  • Visit their website and make a donation or lean more about the hospital
  • Like their Facebook page and share their amazing work with your friends
  • Follow them on Twitter and help highlight the need for blood donations

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Jonathan Welford May 21, 2013 at 14:04

Great to see a new blog post and hearing about your worthwhile blood giving.

More posts please.

Jonathan
Jonathan Welford recently posted..Milestones – nearly 40 years worth

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Hannah Loaring May 21, 2013 at 16:44

Thanks Jonathan! And you’ll be pleased to know that I’m already working on my next post so you won’t have to wait too long :)

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Danica May 21, 2013 at 14:21

Am sitting at work crying my eyes out…am going to give blood. Even if it is in Tooting x x

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Hannah Loaring May 21, 2013 at 16:43

Sorry to make you cry honey, but happy you want to give blood after reading this. Miss you madly xxx

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Kellie May 21, 2013 at 14:22

It’s really good to hear of a way of giving back when travelling. I’d never have thought of giving blood abroad, I’d have probably been worried about the hospital being clean. The places you wouldn’t have thought of doing this are probably the places that need it most. It’s definitely something I would consider now. Thanks.
Kellie recently posted..Fear – The boy who was scared of everything!

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Hannah Loaring May 21, 2013 at 16:42

I never would have thought of it either – it was a stroke of luck that we happened to pass the hospital and see their sign. I was definitely worried about the level of cleanliness, and was fully prepared to leave if it hadn’t felt right when we were there, but it truly couldn’t have been cleaner. It put my local hospital back home in England to shame!

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Rica May 21, 2013 at 14:34

Just shared your post with a friend who’s visiting Cambodia soon. :)
Rica recently posted..Hometown Glory: Bacolod City

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 03:18

Amazing, thank you :)

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Carmel May 21, 2013 at 15:00

What a great idea! I wish I could give blood, but usually my iron is too low. We’ll check it out if we make it to Cambodia, though. Sometimes giving can be a pathway to your own healing.
Carmel recently posted..LEAVING THE JOB

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Hannah Loaring May 21, 2013 at 16:40

I’m exactly the same, and have suffered from anaemia most of my life. I’ve tried to give blood at home in the UK before but my blood sample didn’t make the grade, so I wasn’t sure it would this time. Looks like all this fresh food and sunshine has done me some good – I hope it has the same effect on you. And yes, giving can definitely be a pathway to your own healing :)

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Rachel May 21, 2013 at 15:01

Beautiful post as always…..glad you both found the courage to give blood. Blood donors seem to be on short supply across the world so I hope your post encourages more to volunteer and donate, no matter where they are, as it’s painless, quick and means so much to those who need it. xx

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 04:07

Thanks Rach, I hope it encourages other people too. It really couldn’t have been easier or safer, and has been a real highlight of our trip so far. Love you sis xxx

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Toni May 21, 2013 at 20:21

Yet another reason why I love you xx
Toni recently posted..Dear Women, what the hell is wrong with you??

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 04:08

Thanks honey :)

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Ken May 21, 2013 at 22:09

I was just there but had no idea about the Children’s Hospital’s need. Thanks for publicizing this…there are many tourists who might read and act!

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 04:09

Thanks Ken. I had no idea either, and had we not seen their sign, we still wouldn’t. I really hope this post helps to change that.

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Margaret Hogan | Destination Here&Now May 21, 2013 at 23:23

A great way to give back and so good to know. Thanks Hannah.
Margaret Hogan | Destination Here&Now recently posted..Memories of an autumn dinner party

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 04:10

Thanks Marg!

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budget jan May 22, 2013 at 00:58

Love reading all your posts. I love that you love Siem Riep. We will be there in October this year so looking forward to Cambodia through your eyes.
budget jan recently posted..Florence Bay on Magnetic Island

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 04:13

Thanks Jan! I hope you manage to stop by the hospital while you’re there. Even if you don’t want to give blood, they have a fantastic Visitor’s Centre and shop that are well worth a visit :)

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Jeremy or IHeartTravel May 22, 2013 at 05:32

As I’ve grown older and look at the world differently, my perspective in how I travel has also been altered. Before my only concern was about self enjoyment, but now I care more about giving back.

I commend you and Lee for being so generous and really encouraging these types of activities while seeing the world.

My respects to both of you !
Jeremy or IHeartTravel recently posted..How a third world country changed my perspective on life.

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 12:37

Thanks Jeremy. It was wonderful to be able to visit the hospital, and see first-hand the incredible work that is being done there. It really has been a major highlight of our travels so far :)

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Tricia May 22, 2013 at 08:48

Hannah, a lovely reminder about how travelers can do good on the road! :-) Hope you’re continuing to enjoy Cambodia. Such kind and wonderful people we met there.
Tricia recently posted..Culinary Diplomacy Through Spanakopita in Meteora, Greece

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 10:33

Thank you Tricia. And yes, the people here are so very kind and wonderful. Cambodia has stolen my heart already!

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Maddie May 22, 2013 at 08:50

I never would have thought about doing this, thanks for highlighting Hannah. So glad to hear things are going better for you and the change of scenery is helping you find your travelling feet again.
Maddie recently posted..Our visit to elephant heaven

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 12:34

I never would have thought of it either, but I’m so glad we happened upon their sign. It has opened my eyes to a whole new way of helping people as we travel.

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Jill May 22, 2013 at 09:23

What a beautiful and inspiring post. I remember seeing the sign for wanted blood donations when I was in Siem Reip but I was too afraid of the conditions. Thank you for inspiring me to go check out local hospitals next time I am in a developing country. In Aus I can’t even give any blood for some time due to the countries I’ve visited.
Jill

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 12:24

I was really apprehensive too, and imagined the worst, but the hospital really is immaculate. There is a Visitor’s Centre and gift shop, and the founder, photographer Kenro Izu, has his incredible work on the walls. Even if you don’t give blood it is well worth a visit. If you ever go back you should check it out :)

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Paul Farrugia (globalhelpswap) May 22, 2013 at 11:16

Great post and I wished we knew about this place when we were in Cambodia. I give blood regularly and I recommend people doing it everywhere. Good work you two!

Take care,
Paul
Paul Farrugia (globalhelpswap) recently posted..Signs of Life

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Hannah Loaring May 22, 2013 at 12:25

Cheers Paul! I will definitely be giving blood as often as I can now, and found the whole experience so eye-opening.

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Melissa - The Mellyboo Project May 22, 2013 at 17:33

Hannah, you are incredible! You never cease to amaze me with the wonderful things you’re doing. And to highlight the hospital and their need for blood donations – you’re awesome!
Melissa – The Mellyboo Project recently posted..World Lion Day

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Hannah Loaring May 23, 2013 at 11:36

Thanks so much Mel, I really appreciate that. It really was an honour to be able to help in some small way :)

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Rhonda May 22, 2013 at 20:08

Good for you!! We have given blood before and it’s always a worthwhile experience. Enjoy Cambodia… it broke my heart a little every day but all the smiling faces healed it again. It is so inspiring to have their very recent history and yet, every day, be confronted by their enthusiasm for the future.
Rhonda recently posted..Brewer’s Memorial Brew Fest 2013

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Hannah Loaring May 23, 2013 at 11:41

I feel exactly the same way, and find myself confronted with such poverty, hardship and joy every day. It can be hard to wrap my head around it all. But those smiles… they bring you right back. I guess this is why we travel; to bear witness, to grow, and to look on each day with a smile on our face :)

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Phillipa Sen May 22, 2013 at 23:04

You are both truly amazing and kind people to do such a thing. I can’t believe how those sick little kiddies still have a smile on their faces. Your post was beautiful and I’m so happy to hear the dark cloud is lifting a bit for you.I just visited the hospital website and donated $150…

We arrived back from South of France today…but oh, how my heart yearns to experience the adventures you are having. :)

I will FT you soon.I love you!

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Hannah Loaring May 23, 2013 at 11:44

Oh honey, that’s amazing! Thank you so much!!! You are such a beautiful and generous soul. Can’t wait to hear all about your time in France. Love you endlessly xxx

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Rika | Cubicle Throwdown May 22, 2013 at 23:31

Wow…just wow. You guys are amazing!!
Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..Could you live off a dive instructor’s wage on Roatan?

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Hannah Loaring May 23, 2013 at 11:32

Thanks Rika!

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Candace May 23, 2013 at 13:17

“Cambodia was dusty, parched, and alive, and I felt myself connect with her right away; a country still healing, still growing, still moving forward.”

I absolutely *love* that line, Hannah. I was wondering what your first impressions of Cambodia were going to be – for me, it was the first place outside India where I really felt like I was back…the kind of place where your feet soon grow dusty but there’s a real sense of life in the air. As I replied to your comment on my own post, I also love that healing was a theme for both of us in Cambodia – and how cool that you got to experience healing there in such a tangible, meaningful way. Thanks for sharing this beautiful experience with us!

Oh, and I’m with Jonathan – more posts please!! :)
Candace recently posted..sketching cambodia: bracelets and belief at the choeung ek killing fields.

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Hannah Loaring May 24, 2013 at 04:07

I feel exactly the same – Cambodia is definitely the first place I have connected with in that way outside of India. I have needed to heal for a long time on so many levels, just as Cambodia has done, and continues to do so. Every day I am learning more about the country, and myself :)

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Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) May 24, 2013 at 04:23

I just realized that I commented on Facebook, but not here! Wanted to let you know that like your other readers, I loved this post, both for what Cambodia has meant to you, but also for how you have already given back to it. I don’t consider myself one of those people who has many phobias, certainly none of the usual suspects like heights or spiders, but I really really hate needles. And yet your post has been so inspiring that I’ve said to Tony that when we make it to Siem Reap, I think this is something that we should look into doing as well. We have been mulling over ways of giving back to Cambodia, but most of the conventional options aren’t really ones I feel properly equipped for (I have no business teaching small children English!), but this is something that is so simple, yet vital, and something I know I can do. Thank you for sharing it with us, and I hope I’ll get the chance to do the same!
Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Port Barton: The Town that Tourism Left Behind

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Hannah Loaring May 24, 2013 at 12:25

That’s so wonderful Steph. I don’t know if you read my reply to any of the other comments, but I just wanted to reassure you how easy, clean and efficient our whole experience was. Taking into account your fear of needles, perhaps you would find it easier to head to their Visitor’s Centre first, where a tour can be arranged to help you feel more relaxed and sure of your decision. Giving blood shouldn’t just be about forcing yourself to do something for the sake of others, so hopefully this way you will feel happier if you do decide to go ahead and donate :)

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Casey @ A Cruising Couple May 24, 2013 at 13:05

Just to reiterate what all the other commenters have said, thank you so much for posting about such an easy way to give back. Many people (definitely myself!) often donate blood back home but would never even consider it abroad. It’s definitely reassuring to hear about the conditions. I’m now curious to look into donating blood elsewhere!

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Hannah Loaring May 25, 2013 at 03:31

Thanks Casey, I’m so happy to hear that :)

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Bryony May 25, 2013 at 11:22

I love the way you have described this post x

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Hannah May 26, 2013 at 07:41

Thank you, I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

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Kim May 25, 2013 at 12:09

Lovely writing Hannah. I hope Cambodia is treating you well. I’m inspired to give blood too. We’ll make sure to stop by when we are there in the fall.

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Hannah Loaring May 25, 2013 at 12:58

Kim, you are going to love it here, I just know it. It has a soul that feels so similar to India, it’s impossible to not let you own heart beat along with it :)

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TammyOnTheMove May 28, 2013 at 03:25

This hospital does amazing work! It is so inspiring to see that you are giving blood for such a worthwhile cause. Hopefully loads of travelers see your post and will do the same! :-)
TammyOnTheMove recently posted..Alternative sightseeing in Berlin

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Hannah Loaring May 28, 2013 at 04:47

I really hope so Tammy! We were so impressed with the hospital and its staff, and will definitely go back next time we are in Siem Reap.

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Amy July 10, 2013 at 08:27

Thanks for highlighting this issue. We’ll be sure to give blood when we make it to Cambodia ourselves in the next few months – I’m excited to visit, it sounds like a beautiful and interesting place.
Amy recently posted..This is Not a Holiday…

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Hannah Loaring July 11, 2013 at 07:19

That’s fantastic Amy! I’ve heard from quite a few people who have donated blood in at the Angkor Children’s Hospital after reading my post, and they all had a great experience. It really is such a simple way to make a very big difference.

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Colleen Brynn August 16, 2013 at 18:43

You’re so right.. children really do have that amazing ability…
Unfortunately my blood vessels are too small to donate – I have failed numerous times at donating. :( I’ve always wanted to be able to!
Colleen Brynn recently posted..Inside A Gulag

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Hannah August 17, 2013 at 09:03

I am usually too anaemic, so I was really happy that I could donate – it was the first time I was able to do so. If you are ever in Siem Reap you should still drop by the hospital for a visit. They have a great little cafe and gift shop, so you can support them in other ways :)

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Chanel @ La Viajera Morena November 11, 2013 at 13:53

I too donated blood when I visited the hospital. I hope that more people who pass through will visit the hospital and give blood.
Chanel @ La Viajera Morena recently posted..Comment on Visiting Sabang Beach on Mindoro Island by Chanel

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Hannah November 11, 2013 at 15:24

That’s great Chanel, I’m so happy to hear that! I hope other people will do the same.

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