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.
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.
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 giving 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.
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