Posts Tagged 'Health'

LFS Introduces…Carolyn & Anjali House in Siem Reap, Cambodia

Please introduce yourself…

I’m Carolyn;  I’m a 31-year-old Scottish girl who now lives in Cardiff, South Wales.

What is Anjali House?

To properly answer this, I need to explain a bit of Cambodian history and culture. I’ll try to be concise.

Between 1975 and 1979, under the regime of Pol Pot and the communist Khmer Rouge party, approximately 21% of the Cambodian population (an estimated 1.7 to 2.5 million people) were killed. Pol Pot’s vision was for an agriculture based communist utopia, and two of his methods of promoting & achieving this were to close schools (everyone was now to be a subsistence farmer, working to provide for Cambodia’s own needs so it would have no need for the Western world) and to kill anyone with any level of prior education (as they may have been a threat to the new ‘utopia’).

Cambodia as a country has been ‘reeling’ from this ever since. Although Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge are long gone, the legacy of their rule was a country in ruins – no economy, no infrastructure, and the huge problem of a pretty much uneducated and unskilled population. Either you were educated before the Pol Pot rule and were killed due to being educated, or you didn’t receive any education to begin with as you were a child during the regime as you worked in the fields instead of attending school and after the regime was over there was no infrastructure for schooling and no educated citizens to teach you.

Fast-forward 30 years…

Cambodia is a country that’s done a pretty good job of piecing itself back together. It’s still a very, VERY poor country. But it has an infrastructure of sorts. It has an economy of sorts. It has a stable government. It’s getting there. Corruption is rife. There are still live landmines all over the place. It’s not perfect. But in spite of all this, it’s getting there.

The education gap is still there though. It’s one of the things Cambodia can’t easily fix on its own. Another generation has passed, but they didn’t have anyone to teach them either. And so the cycle continues.

There are ‘public’ schools in Cambodia, but the fees (a few dollars a month) plus the need for a uniform and the lost earnings of the child make it an unobtainable dream for most Cambodian families.

And this is where NGO’s (Non Government Organisations) come into the picture, and where I finally get back to the original question…

What is Anjali House?

Anjali House (pronounced An-jah-lee) is an NGO in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  I was privileged to spend a month there in summer 2009 working as a volunteer English and General Studies teacher.

Anjali aims to provide support, education and healthcare provision to street kids who otherwise wouldn’t have access to these things.  In practice, this means…

  • The kids attend Anjali for half a day, and public school for the other half (Anjali pays their fees and provides them with a uniform).
  • Many of the health problems affecting Cambodian children are a result of poor diet and unsuitable drinking water. To attempt to counter this, the children at Anjali receive two healthy meals (breakfast and lunch) and a fruit snack each day, and have access to filtered drinking water throughout the day.
  • Due to the lack of clean water and the constraints of poverty, many of the children had never used soap or cleaned their teeth. They now bathe every morning at Anjali and are educated in the importance of personal hygiene.
  • All Anjali children have regular medical and dental health checks provided by the project. They will also be taken to hospital or the doctors if necessary.
  • As one of the conditions of attendance at Anjali, the child is no longer allowed to be sent out to work on the streets begging, selling trinkets etc. The families receive a weekly allowance of rice to compensate for the loss of income.

There are currently approximately 80 children at Anjali. Enrolment is by application (and based on social and economic testing). Due to lack funds and constraints of space, Anjali currently is not accepting any further applications at this time.

Tell us how you ended up going over to Cambodia to work with the team at Anjali?

The short answer is it felt like the right thing to do at the right time.

The longer answer is that I had recently resigned from a job I’d once loved after a prolonged chain of events (clash of personalities with one of my bosses, what I believe was an institutional bullying campaign, an unrealistically large work load, a nervous breakdown and a 5 month absence due to stress, a subsequent formal grievance process, and so on) None of it is particularly interesting reading. Suffice to say it wasn’t the best period in my life.

I had (and still have) an incredibly supportive partner in my boyfriend, Ian. He not only encouraged me to bite the bullet and resign, but told me to take as much time as I needed to recharge my batteries, get my head straight again, get over the lousy year I’d had and generally become myself again.

I realised that I’d been defining myself primarily by my job for a long time, and that I needed and wanted to change that.

I’d just posed the question ‘what next?’ when my friend Beth had returned from a month in Cambodia, having been placed at Grace House by a volunteer organisation called Globalteer. She’d come back on schedule purely to attend her own university graduation, and was planning on heading straight back out to Siem Reap. She told me I ought to come with her. I decided to roll with that.

Beth later decided that although she’d love to return straight away, it wasn’t to be. I applied anyway, thinking that it probably wouldn’t be possible. Less than a month later I was on a plane, having been placed at Anjali by Globalteer.

What are the most important things you learned from your time at Anjali?

I think I learned a lot, but it’s incredibly difficult to describe the experiences I had, words just don’t seem to do it justice. I can honestly say it was one of the best months of my life. (I STILL want to go back).

I learned that you don’t have to be perfect to be a volunteer. You just have to be enthusiastic. I’m a perfectionist, and as such, frequently worry that my best isn’t good enough.  It was, and you get lots of help and support from the staff and other volunteers at Globalteer.

I learned that there’s a place for all personality types in this sort of environment. I’m very much an introvert, and in the beginning found myself feeling inadequate due to the fact that I wasn’t an ‘all out’, loud, confident presence around the kids during non lesson times. Pretty soon I realised that not all of the kids were extroverts either, and the fact that I interacted with them in a different manner to some of the other volunteers didn’t actually matter.

I learned that there’s a peace that comes with just going with the flow and that somehow you’ll end up in the right place at the right time anyway – even if you didn’t see it coming.

I learned that I can’t solve everything for everyone, but that’s not a reason to stop trying to at least make a small difference. There’s an old Scottish saying that –  “Mony a mickle maks a muckle” (translation: lots of small things make up a large thing), and I realised that I need to stop worrying about the ‘Muckle’, and just get on with my ‘Mickle’.

How can we support Anjali?

There are lots of ways…

Volunteer over there. I promise, you will NOT regret it. You don’t need a month; however long you have is fine. And if I can do it, ANYONE can.

Raise awareness of Anjali, who & what they are and what they do. You’re welcome to use the information & pictures on my blog.

Make a donation/ host a fundraising event for Anjali. I’ve been there and can personally verify that every dollar is put to good use. If you’re a UK tax payer, you can gift aid your donation to make it worth and extra 28%.

Sponsor an Anjali child Please be aware though that Anjali don’t generally allow sponsors to visit the kids (Cambodia, unfortunately seems to be fast becoming the new Thailand in that respect, and that fact breaks my heart).

If people wanted to pray for you, what would you have them talk to God about on your behalf?

Prayer isn’t something I’ve figured out, so I’m not entirely sure how to answer that sincerely. I guess the best answer I can give is ‘however they feel led’.

Cambodia is a beautiful country with beautiful people, who lead hard, hard lives. I’d like to hope it’ll get better for them.

The kids at Anjali come from some pretty hopeless backgrounds, I’d like to think that they’ll have better futures than pasts.

I’d hope that their time at Anjali makes them feel loved and validated and allows them to have a childhood.

I’d like to hope that they won’t have to go to bed hungry again.

I’d like to hope that they grow up create a better world than the one they were born into.

Thank you so much for sharing about Anjali House with us Carolyn. We’re also really happy to announce that Carolyn will be returning to Cambodia and Anjali House this summer! You can find out more about Anjali House by going to and follow more of Carolyn’s tales of Cambodia, plus life as a Scottish lass in Wales on her blog


LFS Introduces…Rebecca, a student Nurse

Hello! Please introduce yourself, and give us a brief summary about what you are doing just now.

I’m Rebecca, [age] 20 and a student at the University of Surrey, England. I am doing a Bachelor of Science Degree in Adult Nursing Studies. The course is a mix of 50% theory in lectures and 50% practice in different hospital settings. The course lasts 3 years and I hope to achieve my qualification in July this year! 🙂

How is it going?

I would need a million hands to count the amount of times I have wanted to give up and just say ‘this is too much’. The course is tough and most nights keeps me up way past midnight to finish work, research and read up on nursing practice etc. In spite of that it has gone far better than I could ever have expected. It gets more rewarding and exciting as each day leads to my qualification. It has been a roller coaster of ups and downs but I would not have traded it for the world.

How did you get into nursing?

It all started when I was around 12 years old. At first I wanted to be a Midwife – pretty ironic considering I never want to be a Midwife now I am doing the Nursing. However, I first got into it when my Mum liaised with Nurses as part of her job. I was fascinated by their demeanour, their uniform and the medical terms they used in conversation. Even though I was really interested in their roles I still maintained I wanted to do Midwifery. I was confident I would be offered a place on the course at the university of my choice. Wrong. The University of Surrey felt that I was too young to become a Midwifery student and they offered me a Nursing position instead. It was safe to say I was very upset and I felt like I had failed at something I always felt was my ‘calling’ to do. I was then offered a Midwifery position at another university. But I found that I was not as happy and jumping for joy like I imagined I would be. It was a really confusing couple of days for me! As I was toying between a career I thought I had always wanted to do and another I had been interested in but never really looked into it as ‘suiting’ me. I found it hard to believe that a panel of people thought I could make a good Nurse. After deliberating, researching and many conversations with myself I made a decision. And 3 years later it remains the best decision I have ever made! Nursing is the career for me 🙂

Has it been everything you expected?

Yes and No. I expected it to be hard, be long hours and tiring. I guess I expected the whole negative side to it…typical huh?! I never went into this course blind. However, one of the things I didn’t expect was just how comfortable I felt easing into the nursing role. I remember before starting my clinicals/placements all my friends talking about the injections, wound dressings and the people they had catheterised etc.. I remember thinking ‘How on Earth can I do that? What had I let myself in for?’ Yet when I was asked by other Nurses to carry out those types of interventions I surprised myself at how incredibly easy and comfortable I felt doing them. It was those moments I thought ‘I can do this!‘ and I never expected that!

What is your favourite thing about your role as a Nurse/Student Nurse?

It may come across cliché but without a doubt the people I care for. I adore getting to know them, their stories, their background, their humour and not just their illness and why they need nursing care. I enjoy making them smile when they feel very unwell. I love doing crosswords, or talking by their bedsides when they miss their family. I adore learning new skills and for them to trust me practising on them is SUCH a privilege. I love the fact that they are my patients for that shift and I am their Nurse to care for them.

What is the most challenging thing about being a Nurse/Student Nurse?

The sheer workload is tough to deal with. We constantly have to apply our theory of nursing knowledge into our nursing practice. That in itself is very draining. As well as having to do a 37.5 hour week (no pay!), earn money at weekends, have a social life and somehow fit adequate sleep into the equation all adds to feeling quite exhausted a lot of the time. I guess the only difference to when I am qualified is that I will be paid 🙂

What do you wish others knew about nursing?

I wish people knew just HOW HARD it is. I am not waving the sympathy flag because I chose to do this and I LOVE it. However, people don’t tend realise the importance of the nursing role and the lengths we have to go to ensure EVERYONE who needs us gets the care they need. Nursing is 24/7, 365 days a year. It never stops. We never shut our doors. A lot of Nurses I have spoken with have said that the public doesn’t tend to appreciate the nursing role until they need nursing care themselves. We can so easily judge the drunk person who stumbles into A&E with a bleeding wound to the head and say ‘you had that coming.’ We could so easily condemn a patient who has cancer related to their smoking and say ‘well the amount you smoke we’re not surprised your ill‘ – but we don’t. We simply just don’t. On a personal level to me, a simple smile and a ‘thank you‘ makes my day.

Who do you have supporting you?

I have a personal tutor who deals with all my queries related to work, placements and any worries. She is amazing and has helped me a lot. We also have our module leaders who are trained in certain aspects of Nursing care. For example, if I need assistance about wound care there is a link tutor who is specifically trained in wound nursing management and we can go to them. They are fantastic learning tools. Plus, I have my family and friends who are wonderful in letting me vent, cry or simply ask how it is going. I love them for just asking 🙂

What piece of advice would you give to anyone who is thinking of becoming a nurse or other health professional?

If you want to become a Nurse and you feel it is something you would love to do then do your research, apply and enjoy the journey. It has it many bumps in the road but also some extraordinary achievements that will never leave you – ever. My advice to other health professionals and people who are student nurses is to turn every negative into a positive. There have been people I have not enjoyed learning from and fields/branches of nursing that I find dull. However, those negatives have made me evaluate my communication skills with others and how I perceive peoples personalities. If there has been a placement/clinical area I have not enjoyed then I say to myself ‘this area is not for you so you don’t have to work in it when you’re qualified.‘ As a result of it happening it has helped me realise that surgical nursing and blood giving are my passions.

If people wanted to pray for you, what would you like them to talk to God about on your behalf?

That I hope the Nursing role continues to grow and reach more people, particularly those in more deprived/under developed areas. My biggest hope is that every single person in the world should have access to health care that is affordable and easily accessible. It’s tough to achieve but I know it can be done. Furthermore, the rate of people applying for nursing courses is dropping – fast. I would love people to pray that this picks up. I can only vouch for myself, but I adore Nursing and the person it is allowing me to become. My only hope is that others follow into this amazing career field.

Thank you so much for sharing with us Rebecca! We will be praying for you, and look forward to celebrating with you when you graduate this summer. 😀

You can engage with more of Rebecca’s writings and video blogs at ‘Making Memories‘.



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