Project Compassion: learning more, helping many in Cambodia

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The program established by Caritas Cambodia and supported by Caritas Australia helps train, support and empower local health centre staff. Photo: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia
The program established by Caritas Cambodia and supported by Caritas Australia helps train, support and empower local health centre staff. Photo: Richard Wainwright/Caritas Australia

Education and training have helped Sreymom transform from an inexperienced young midwife into a confident healthcare worker. Now she has the skills to provide vital healthcare, support and information to indigenous mothers and children in remote Northeast Cambodia.

In the beautiful, remote Mondulkiri province of Northeast Cambodia the majority of the population is made up of indigenous people, who are a minority group in the rest of the country.

Due to extreme poverty, indigenous people in the region face many complex health issues that stem from a lack of clean drinking water, inconsistent food supplies, poor sanitation and limited access to health services.

When Sreymom, now 26, started work at the Health Centre in Mondulkiri province, she was eager to put her three years of training as a midwife into action, and help care for indigenous mothers and children in the surrounding villages.

But while Sreymom had the qualification to be a midwife, she soon realised she lacked practical experience. It made her very nervous. “When I had to assist a delivery,” Sreymom recalls, “my body and knees were trembling. I was sweating and losing confidence.”

Seeing Sreymom’s difficulties- and her true potential- a local healthcare worker helped Sreymom to enrol in the Mondulkiri Community Health Program.

The program was established by Caritas Cambodia (supported by Caritas Australia) to improve the health of indigenous people living in five of the most vulnerable communities in the Mondulkiri region, and to help train, support and empower local health centre staff.

When she was introduced to the program, Sreymom jumped at the chance to build her skills and get the practical experience she needed to help her work better in her local communities. “I was very interested to participate in this good opportunity,” says Sreymom. “I wanted to increase my skill and knowledge with support from the other health staff.”

During the intensive training course Sreymom learned new techniques to help improve the health of mothers and babies during pregnancy, childbirth and infancy. She also received coaching from an experienced midwife to gain practical experience delivering babies.

The course not only improved Sreymom’s skills, but also gave her information on community health and hygiene issues that she could take back to the indigenous women in her communities. “It is very important to share knowledge with others,” she says. “It is useful to the community and this sharing will increase the villagers’ knowledge on children’s health care…I am happy when a villager applies what they have learned.”

These days, with her new training, Sreymom delivers one or two babies each month, and has gained the trust of the indigenous mothers in the community. “Sreymom took care of my health before and during delivery,” says Peub, a mother of five. “She provided medication, injections and advice. My baby was safely delivered with her and afterwards, she made me aware of how to take care of my baby and provided vaccinations.”

Today, guided by the Catholic Social Teaching principle of the Common Good, the Mondulkiri Community Health program is continuing to train healthcare workers like Sreymom, and empowering local indigenous communities to improve their health and wellbeing.

“If we did not have the program, more pregnant women would face death,” Sreymom says. “I hope Australian people will support my communities more in building awareness in healthcare, hygiene, nutrition and sanitation.”

Call 1800 024 413 or visit caritas.org.au/donate to donate.