Slum Visits

Mobile Medical Expansion

At Flame, it's not just what we do,    but who does it

Let me introduce you to Sothy... (Soh-tee) the current leader at our guy's leadership academy.   He is dreaming of running a second mobile medical Tuktuk, bringing free medical care into the slums of Phnom Penh.  

        Would you consider helping him?

Sothy's Story

When I was a child, my dad suffered from mental illness, he wanted to kill us kids. He took his own life when I was a just little guy and I was the one who found him hanging. My siblings left school to help support the family after he died, climbing palm trees to get the fruit used for juice, but then it was decided that I should go to school.  So, at 6 yrs old I was left alone in our family home, while everyone else went to Phnom Penh to find work. I couldn't cook or look after myself but I took care of the neighbour's animals, and in return they helped me. I was really scared of ghosts, I would hide under the covers at night. I was so alone.

My mum got sick and life took another turn. I remember looking at her sad face and feeling sad too, knowing I couldn't help her. I remember thinking to myself that if I knew about medicine, I could help her and could help other poor people too.

We had to sell our family home to pay for my mother's medicines. The money only lasted 3 weeks and 2 months after it ran out, my mother died. I was 7, and my little brothers were 2 and 3 years old.

I went back to living alone, and still had no idea how to cook for myself. I begged the neighbours "I will do anything for you, if you just give me something to eat!!" I stayed with them for one year until at 8, I was taken away with someone to live with a family. I remember staring out the window of the car as we drove away, trying to memorise the road because I was sure that I was being sold and would need to know how to get home again. 

It turned out to be a foster home situation and my sister and brothers joined me there and lived with the family for 7 years. We knew that we weren't really their kids, they loved their own children more than us. 

Now I am living at the Flame Leadership Academy and have just finished my 6th year of medical school. I have 2 more years of interning at local hospitals here in Phnom Penh before I can continue with my 4 year specialisation in paediatrics, which is my dream. I want to provide free medical care in rural Cambodia to children so that kids like I was are able to get medicines and the care they need. 

A second Tuktuk and motorbike have already been donated,  but Flame still needs ongoing costs of US$100 per week before we set this expansion in motion.  Would you be able to help us? 

Sothy has been working alongside Rithy for a year now, and will have our volunteer ER Nurse Alister accompanying him to the slums. We can't do this without your help. 

Sothy has been working alongside Rithy for a year now, and will have our volunteer ER Nurse Alister accompanying him to the slums. We can't do this without your help. 

Book Tuktuk

At Flame we believe that a tough childhood should not mean a tough future... that each kid we work with has the potential to become a leader in their community. 

I shot a quick video today of the Flame Book Tuktuk... check it out, it's shirt but cute! 

The Book Tuktuk is similar to Mobile Medical but instead of medicines, it brings BOOKS to kids who either aren't in school, or who are -but still need extra help. Read to a kid and a kid will read... great concept if the family are literate or if there are books at home, but with our families this isn't often the case. 

Sokann reading to the kids today

Sokann reading to the kids today

One of our case workers, Poeurn had the idea of bringing books to the slums. He remembers when he was a kid, that there just weren't any books at home and now as a Flame case worker he visits our families, and saw he same thing. He asked if Flame could do something ... and with a huge thanks to St Paul's Collegiate, the Book Tuktuk was born, 

Poeurn meeting with one of the families, with five young kids, none were in school... and they had lost their mother

Poeurn meeting with one of the families, with five young kids, none were in school... and they had lost their mother

Sokann is our book Tuktuk staff, otherwise known as the book Tuktuk star!!  He drives the Tuktuk and teaches the kids. The original idea was more like a mobile library but Sokann quickly found that even kids up to grade 4, were simply unable to read. So, responding to the need, he has turned this into a little mobile school, reading to the kids and teaching them their letters. The kids who attend the Book Tuktuk are often responsible for their younger siblings, so Sokann arranges a clean tarpoline for the littlies and today's activity was colouring in.  

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If you like projects like this, please help us! We need regular monetary support to continue our work with these kids, to identify ones who should be in school and then help overcome the obstacles and break the poverty cycle. Check out our website and see what else we are doing!

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Book tuktuk


 

Breast is Best

Newborn babies and mother's milk, a beautifully designed combination, right?

This mum would be able to feed her baby, but her wee girl is the 6th child in the family and dad's in jail. Mum is alone, so although she has plenty of milk, she will go to work and leave bubs to one of the siblings to mind. This is a choice she will make to feed the family. She has asked if we could help by providing baby formula. Babies born into struggling families cannot get the "Best", but with some help, they can survive.

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Huge thanks to our kind donors who make the work we do in the slums possible. We can't do this without you! If you'd like to help, please donate on the Flame website

Where is Hope?

Warning: I found this hard to write, you may find it hard to read.

A Flame child has been raped. The perpetrator has been arrested, but the crime committed against this girl will follow her for life. Can anyone communicate this kind of thing without loosing hope?

We have been waiting for some closure or news before letting our supporters know, letting the dust settle around the publicity too. Her picture was published in the papers and she was ostracized and bullied for telling. When someone is arrested in the community, there is a sense of betrayal, and a communal acknowledgement of lost income, and she's to blame. Her journey is a long hard one, that's for sure.

The perpetrator was arrested the day after her grandmother went to the police with the support of the assistant village leader and reported the crime, but we are unsure of where it's been left. Often times the perp will pay off the police and give a gift to the family, a kind of out-of-court settlement.

We are glad to say that the girl has been removed from the community and placed into protective care. When she returns to her family she will need ongoing counselling and support.

I know a young adult who has incredible trauma in her past, her childhood was a series of nightmares... but today, she is a confident leader in her community, she is bright, vivacious, and determined that her past will not limit her future. She is a student at university, and her dream is to help women to be safe when they travel as migrant labourers. 

I think about the little girl and I am so deeply disturbed, but when I look at what she has the potential to become, I feel I can breathe again.  

If you want to help kids like this to become strong nation changers, please donate.  

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Kids colouring at one of our centers  

Flame Expansion: Steung Meanchey -one of the darkest slums of Phnom Penh

Flame recently adopted the Hope for Life Activity Centre in the heart of Steung Meanchay, which has been running for many years. 

This is the kind of established slum where centres get broken into, things get stolen, and drug and alcohol related crimes are rampant. It's the underbelly of Phnom Penh where criminals run to when there's a police chase.

Sue's perspective of Steung Meanchey -

" It's not just slums and smells you can taste. The slum felt like another level down, more hardcore. We met a grandma today who is 50. I stood in her -not-even-house, with no door, just a corner of a walkway, my feet straddled the sewerage that was coming through from under the bed. I felt a heaviness of the deal she's been dealt in life, her son is a drug addict, her daughter in law has run away and her own husband recently died and she is left with her 10 yr old grandson.

I know that Flame can't take all that pain away, but we can do something to bring joy into her life. For this woman to see her grandson thrive, that he's in school and has such a different future from his own parents gives her hope. Her future is pretty much set, but she can see a brighter future for her grandson.

This lady is so happy that her grandson is in school!

This lady is so happy that her grandson is in school!


Strangely, I don't feel hopeless when I see the slum. It's really well established, renown for drug and alcohol related crime and is a hiding place for criminals. But I do feel sad that Flame wasn't here 20 years ago. If we were involved in this community they would now have some young adults who would be doctors, lawyers and teachers who would be shining lights in that place.

That would be incredibly inspirational to the people we met there today. Maybe that would be the impetus they need to do the hard work required to get them out of that lifestyle and culture and rut.

There's an African proverb that says the best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago, the second best time is today. So even though Flame wasn't there 20 years ago, we are there today. And that's what matters.

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Journey Begins

Do you remember the family who lost their mum? Check out the latest!! 

These kids are going to school!!

Laughing their heads off!! 

Laughing their heads off!! 

The family returned to Phnom Penh and Flame staff signed them up today. We will bring them rice, are looking at getting them into better accommodation and are moving forward on getting the kids into our Flame catch up class.

The joy on this wee face! 

The joy on this wee face! 

None of the kids have birth certificates, so we are planning another trip (4 hour each way!) to the countryside to talk with the village chief and see if we can get them organized. This is a pain, but not an impossible task.  This is what we do!

Thank you to the kind donors who have helped make this possible.  

Our caseworker Poeurn filling in forms :) 

Our caseworker Poeurn filling in forms :) 

Mobile Medical on Steroids!

8 nursing students from Edith Cowan University in Perth come to help Flame

The students and Flame volunteers did medical checks, ear and eye checks, lice treatments, fingernail clipping and tutorials on brushing teeth with 450 slum dwelling children.

Hundreds of kids in the Cemetery  

Hundreds of kids in the Cemetery  

The nurses also conducted first aid training for the Flame Young Adults. It was such a full weekend! 

The students were able to see the entire Full Circle: the slum living kids, the kids in our programs, and the young adults who volunteer now as leaders. The nursing students were stunned and teary eyed at the impact of the Flame leaders who knew poverty and are now university students and graduates who work among the poor.

 "this has renewed my faith in humanity"  

Hounthy doing eye checks

Hounthy doing eye checks

Death in the Slums

This is hard to write. On Tuesday night when Rithy got to the slums he was met with tragedy. One of the women we have been treating died over the Pchum Ben holiday. Most people go back to their homelands to see family and venerate ancestors, but this one woman didn't go home. She knew how ill she was and was waiting to us to come and see her. She died before she could say goodbye to her family for the last time. She left five children, including a small baby. 

This wee guy lost his mum.  

This wee guy lost his mum.  

Mobile Medical have decided to cover the milk powder for him until he's old enough to eat.  

If anyone would be able to help cover the cost we would appreciate it. Mobile Medical is still looking for funding, we are a new initiative, and currently with no regular funding partner. Please email us on info@flamecambodia.org or give directly on our website, tagging the donation with Mobile Medical. Thank you.

Kids in the slums

I just met a little boy with a gas burn on his leg. We are organising some medical help for him. He is too scared to go to hospital, in fact he doesn't want to go anywhere. His parents have left him in the care of his 7 year old sister. The kids live with the various neighbours in the alley.

Poor little kid is scared stiff

Poor little kid is scared stiff

 

I was thinking of posting a picture of Bauk's leg, but it's too horrid, so I edited off the injury and we have one 5 year old foot in the picture insead. Rithy is on his way now.