This is the Medical subprogram’s third year as part of the School Continuity Programme. It was born from vocation of giving sanitary assistance to the monitors during their stay. But, the children´s lack of knowledge about crucial issues such as their hygiene and health has made that the subprogram, apart from taking care of the monitors, also teaches the kids to take care of themselves as a fundamental part of their work.
WHY ARE WE HERE
Blanca, the Medical coordinator with his father, Xavier, —this is their third year in PSE—, has a very clear sense about why she´s here. The subprogram was born to give assistance to the monitors—their health is one of the organisation´s main concerns and assisting them is the prime reason of their job here—; nevertheless, as soon as they got here, three years ago, the Medical team realised about the children´s lack of information about basic health matters —such as the period, hygiene and drugs—, making the teaching of these issues one of their big challenges. “Each one of us is responsible for our own health. Thus, these kids need to know their bodies, understand them; it is vital that they comprehend what´s happening to them and that they know how to take care of their biggest heritage: their health”.
THE MEDICAL TEAM
Two nurses, six medicine or nursing students and a doctor form the Medical team. The sanitary assistance to monitors—the team´s basic function— requires a nurse to be in Sihanoukville and another one in Siem Reap to take care of the monitors in both centres. They both are in constant contact with the rest of the team, which is also divided in two groups. During the program´s first and last week these two groups will stay in Phnom Penh, but, during the second week, one of the teams will travel to Sihanoukville, and on the third week, the other will go to Siem Reap, in order to give support to the remotest camps, never leaving unattended Phnom Penh.
In all the centres, the assistance to monitors consists primarily in wound healing, diagnosing and the treatment of common illnesses as well as the detection of problems that should be taken to a hospital for a further diagnosis with more suitable means.
“The Medical team´s entire work, is just part of PSE unique message; the kids know it and they enjoy it, who does not like to be taken cared of and loved?”
TAKING CARE OF THE KIDS´ HEALTH: PART OF THE UNIQUE PSE LANGUAGE
In addition to assisting the monitors, the Medical team takes care of the children of the different camps. “Every time we arrive to a center,” says Blanca, “the coordinators update us about the children who must be taken care of, but also children come to see us when something hurts them: they already know us from other years and they love us very much “. Usually, the assistance to children is to heal wounds or to detect problems that should be referred to a hospital: in no case antibiotics are given to children.
“Many of the children who come to the School Continuity Program, and who are not PSE students, are used to over-infected wounds that they do not pay attention to it,” says Blanca. “The improvement, when we take a little care of their injuries, is spectacular. ”
“The only thing that can change the children´s life is affection and information.”
Caring for children’s health is part of the unique PSE language. Everything in PSE means care, care and attention to the children, and the assistance provided by the Medical team is part of that philosophy: taking care of their wounds, listening to them, attending them, all is part of that affection and pampering that PSE gives in a thousand ways to their children. “The Medical team´s entire work is just part of that PSE unique message and kids know it and enjoy it, who does not like to be taken cared of and loved?” says Blanca.
THE MEDICAL´S GREAT CRUSADE
But the most important work, about which the Medical team is proudest of and the one that they consider their great crusade, is the struggle to expand the children’s knowledge of themselves and their own health. “The only thing that can change the life of a child is affection and information” says Blanca. And with that objective always present, they have created several workshops on topics that they consider fundamental.
“«Sabou» is the most beautiful word in the world, when kids say it, it means that they learn, that what we teach them remains there.”
The first of these workshops is the basic hygiene workshop, which is generally given to the youngest and in which songs and dances talk about the importance of hygiene. In the workshop, children paint their hands and, when they wash them afterwards, the children look happily with a magnifying glass to see what remains on their hands after washing them. —«Sabou, sabou» (soap, soap), the song says—.
“Sometimes, after a whole year, when you return to a centre, a child comes running to you shouting «sabou, sabou» “ says Julia, a monitor of the team, “«Sabou» is the most beautiful word in the world, when they say it means that they learn, that what we teach them remains there.”
“We want the workshops to be a dialogue between us, the doctors and the nurses, and them, the children; we want them to feel that we have come from far, to tell them something important and that we are here to dialogue with them and solve all their doubts.”
In addition to this workshop, there is another one, about advanced hygiene that tries to convey the importance of cleaning and taking care of our body as a daily routine: at home, on the street, everywhere. “You have to make them understand that you can´t cook or sleep next to the garbage, that your health depends largely on your cleaning habits,” says Blanca, “we are aware that changing habits requires a lot of time, but a small acknowledgment of it is already an achievement, the rest must be done little by little. ”
YOU ARE IMPORTANT FOR ME
But in addition to hygiene workshops – basic and advanced – there are four more workshops: infectious diseases, sexually transmitted diseases, drugs and menstruation. “We set up the workshops according to age,” says Blanca, “but we have to take into account that, for example, children from seven or eight years of age already know about drugs, so it is appropriate at that age to talk about them.”
The workshops are based on posters with drawings or photos, but they try to be totally flexible. “We do not want the workshops to be a dialogue between the Cambodian monitor and the children,” says Blanca, “we want them to be a dialogue between us, doctors and nurses, and them, the children; We want them to feel that we have come from afar, to tell them something important and that we are here to dialogue with them and solve all their doubts. “And they succeed. Blanca says that workshops – some of them such as menstruation, are given only to girls and others, others such as sexually transmitted diseases, are taught separately to boys and girls— are incredibly participatory. “Their ignorance is enormous,” she says, “they have absurd myths, they for instance believe that during menstruation they can not eat mango, but their audacity is also incredible: in the workshops they dare to ask questions of all kinds about subjects that in their society are considered absolutely taboo, such as sex or menstruation. ”
“No one tells the children how primordial it is to take care of themselves, that their welfare is the most important thing.”
The path that Medical has undertaken is long and costly, because they are working on issues that, in many cases, have never been discussed before. “Cambodia is growing,” says Blanca, “it is quickly developing, but in that progress, some steps are missing: no one tells the children how important it is to take care of themselves, that their welfare is the most important thing “.
It is enough just going to a single session with the teenagers to understand the concern of the Medical team, and their determination to change things: in today’s session on menstruation, no children, all teenagers, had been explained anything about menstruation before, about what happens to women these days. They stare at the pictures and listen. Then they ask a thousand questions.
Something is already changing.