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Small Steps

Becca Pippin

Becca PippinBefore I worked in a hospital in Cambodia, I did not realize how lucky I am to receive healthcare in America. I get yearly check-ups and learn about nutrition in school. A fever means I lie in bed for a day or two, eating saltines and drinking ginger ale. When I’m really sick, five top-of-the-line hospitals are within a ten-minute drive of my house.

 

Over the summer, I had the opportunity to practice in Cambodia the skills I have been learning in nursing school. Working with real, live patients, I not only learned more about nursing, but I also listened to their stories. I visited a slum outside of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, and talked with a woman who had recently lost her three-year-old daughter to a high fever. Her neighbors told similar stories about diarrhea. My heart broke over the huge loss caused by minor illnesses. Because homes are built over sewage and the people lack access to clean water, diseases that simply run their course in America are devastating in their environment.

elephant rideThe biggest difference I noticed between healthcare in America and in Phnom Penh is that patients wait until they are nearly dead to seek care. Americans tend to seek healthcare at the first sign of pain or illness, and they usually get regular physicals to catch any abnormalities before they are too serious to treat. In Cambodia, however, transportation from the provinces to the hospitals is difficult to find; so people wait until it is almost too late.

Becca with nurses2At times during my trip, the problems seemed overwhelming and the situation hopeless. I had to keep reminding myself to look not at the problems of an entire country but at the small steps I was taking to make a difference and at the care the hospital was providing. Not only does Sihanouk Hospital Center for Hope offer completely free healthcare, but it also sends mobile clinics out into the villages weekly to check in and to deliver medications and food. Medical teams make home visits to patients with HIV to deliver medicine and to offer encouragement. I found inspiration in the stories of women who used to be addicted to drugs but now are clean and are able to be good mothers because of the hospital’s care. I will be able to use their stories to give hope to other patients battling addictions.

After my experiences in Cambodia, I am convinced that faith in God has little to do with the circumstances in which people live. I met many people who were barely surviving, but they had enormous faith that God would provide for them. I was honored to be God’s hands and feet during my three weeks there.

 

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The people of Cambodia are not the only vulnerable population in the world; unfortunately, there are many. Do not let the enormity of the problems stop you from taking the first step. God is calling you to make a difference in another person’s life. In the words of Mother Teresa, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” How will you respond?

 

Read the Mission to Cambodia 2012 blog to learn more about Becca’s trip.

Becca Pippin , a nursing student at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, enjoys playing outside and trying new restaurants.

—from devozine (March/April 2013). Copyright © 2013 by The Upper Room®. All rights reserved.

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