Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Ratanak Medical Care Program

Whenever people think of Ratanak, they often associate us only with working with projects related to Human Trafficking which partly can be attributed to the fact that, we have been focused on funding such programs over the last 7 years. Of course, working with survivors of trafficking also happens to be my personal passion so most of my blog writing has also been focused on this area. But the reality is that Ratanak has been funding many projects that impact various lives who are trying to survive under dire circumstances.

Since 2005, we have partnered with Sunrise an organization under the umbrella of Inner Change Cambodia which began working amongst the poorest of the poor in Cambodia in 1994. Ratanak has partnered with Sunrise to provide medical care for : 1) those with HIV/AIDS and other life-threatening disease through home base care visits; 2) children of HIV/AID patients or other terminally ill patients,  3) medical & Nutrition care for sick Prisoners at the Kompong Cham Provincial Prison and this year we added a new program 4) infant formula distribution for HIV+ babies.

So today, Sathya our Finance Manager and I went on a 3 hour trek to Kampong Cham province to visit the Ratanak Medical Care program run by our partner Sunrise. It was quite the journey, as unlike Canada where we have to deal with snow storms, fog or ice storms, here we had to deal with ''dust storms'' from the red clay which created a mist as we drove along the main highway. Thankfully our driver Sambath did a great job despite the limited visibility at times. 

Upon arrival, we sat down with our Khmer partners---The Program Director Darany, Dr. Mony who at 67 years old goes and visits 4 communes to make house calls on his HIV/AIDS patients or other terminally ill patients. Then there is Chhun who assists Dr. Mony and he too makes house calls, meeting up with the children of these patients and finally there was Sopheak the accountant. Being a part of such meetings for me is a privilege because at the heart of Ratanak's DNA and mission, is seeing the Khmer people empowered to help their own and here in this program, the compassion and heart the staff have for those whom they serve was evident. 

One of the main goals of this program is to provide an opportunity for the holistic enhancement of life and dignity for the poor and the vulnerable in this province of Kampong Cham and this is done by providing basic medical care, medications, supplemental foods and small loans for raising pigs or chickens or , buying ingredients to make cakes which can be sold at the local market. The Home based care visits began in 2002. At that time the provincial hospital for Kompong Cham Province became aware of many people who were HIV+ and had no way of following up with their illnesses. Most of those who contracted HIV were very poor and did not have good nutrition to meet their needs while living with HIV. The government hospital referred people living with HIV/AIDs to this program. Those referred were poor and vulnerable. During this period, the Ratanak Medical Care program has provided consistent follow up with medical support, supplemental food, shelter, and family support for HIV+ people living in poverty throughout their years until death. Over this past month 49 clients were visited and cared for by Dr. Mony. Pray for Dr. Mony, as he makes these regular visits monthly to 4 different communes to care for the sick. Pray that he will continue to be the beautiful feet that brings good news to those who are suffering as he regularly prays for each patient that he visits.

But while Dr. Mony is seeking to minister to parents who are dying of HIV, it was clear there was a need to also tend to the needs of the children of these families. Such visits are designed to encourage the children of these patients in numerous ways, including help in making memory books for the children whose parents had died from AIDS; help in processing their feelings; and tutoring for their classes at school, as well as providing school uniforms on an annual basis. Currently there are 36 children who receive such regular visits. Pray for these young ones who are dealing with the reality that at least one of their parents is terminally ill.  

Dr Mony also visits prisoners at the Kompong Cham Provincial Prison. Here in Cambodia, provincial prisons often lack medical personnel who are qualified to diagnose basic illnesses nor do they have the financial or medical capacity to purchase and give medicines to those who are ill. So, in 2009, daily visits to the prison began to attend to the needs of approximately twenty  prisoners four days/week with minor illnesses. Similar to the home base care visits, the Ratanak Medical Care (RMC) program  now provides basic medical support and supplemental nutrition for prisoners through these daily visits. For prisoners who are bed-ridden RMC prepares extra nutritional meals four days per week to help with their recovery from major illnesses.

This year, our program has now expanded to include the distribution of infant formula to HIV+ mothers to help decrease mother-to-child transmission of HIV. The infant formula distribution supports HIV+ mothers for one year who live throughout the whole province of Kompong Cham by distributing formula to them when they come to the Kompong Cham hospital to receive their anti-retroviral medications.

As I left Kompong Cham today it was the verse from Matthew 25:40  that came to mind ''truly whatever you do for the least of these'brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'' In Cambodian society, those who have AIDS or are HIV+ are often looked down upon because of the common belief that they must have done something wrong in their previous life (according to Karma) and therefore they deserve what is happening to them in this life. But thank God, as believers in Christ, the staff at Sunrise are living examples of Christ's compassion to those that the wider culture looks down upon. Their efforts to care for these who the world would forget demonstrate once again, that God is close to those who are broken hearted. He is close to those who are poor, rejected and abandoned. He is close to those who are ostracized, mocked and viewed as outcast. For in Jesus, dignity and value replaces the yoke of shame and the yoke of disease, In Jesus, the poor, the weak, the sick, the prisoner and the vulnerable do not only have a friend, they have a Savior, a Deliverer and a Redeemer.  

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