October 27, 2014

Dear friends and partners,

A patron of Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital, Erin Ellison sent me a quote this past week from Dr. Paul Farmer – a physician well known for his health work amongst the poorest of the poor. Farmer was working in Haiti after the devastating earthquake – he helped build a hospital. In this work, Farmer left one day to help five families in a rather remote area of the country. This meant that he was away from the patients at the hospital for a number of hours. On his return, he was criticized for helping the few over the many – his response was The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world

This quote struck a chord in my soul – in all developing countries, the simple choices of health care of any kind are choices limited by availability. Cambodia is no different. This past week, we talked with several  families devastated by illness.

Srei Thon had a stroke at the age of 33 – 10 years ago – she had 4 children all under the age of 13. The stroke left her unable to do anything – a result that drove her husband away from the family – leaving them alone to fend for themselves.  When he left, there was no longer any money to feed them and so slowly they began to sell all they owned, the land, the animals – now just a patch of land where the shack stands is all they own. The oldest boy of the family, Thach  - became the man of the house – he left to find work as a construction worker in Phnom Penh – leaving the three youngest to work for neighboring farmers – in the rice fields – or cutting grass – or finding frogs and geckos to eat.   

Thon’s  tears slid down her face as she said “I am invisible – I am no longer a human being. I should be taking care and raising my children but I cannot- tears flowed down the faces of our staff – so little to say, so little to do.


Chouk Yon is 33 years of age – her and her aged mother both have prolapsed uterus- a condition that is painful and embarrassing.  Yon has  4 children as well – her husband left when the money was used to buy medicine for both women – medicine that did not help but left the family bereft – so the selling began – their rice land, the animals. The children don’t go to school – once again they must work for neighboring farmers to earn some income. Yon works in a factory in Phnom Penh – her discomfort clear in leaving her family in such dire straits- her income too little to pay for food and medicine.

And the stories continue – so many – so little choice. Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital is sometimes criticized for being a vision to big – too costly. Dr Paul Farmer has another quote that disturbs me – he says- All suffering isn't equal. [Many people] think all the world's problems can be fixed without any cost to themselves. We don't believe that. There's a lot to be said for sacrifice, remorse, even pity. It's what separates us from roaches. (Paul Farmer,)

These are strong words from a man who walks the walk – these are words spoken for the silent suffering of the women in Cambodia. I invite you all to stand with us. I thank my God for allowing us this privilege – this work – I thank Him for the opportunity to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.


Web: www.nokor-tep-net

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Stories of Cambodian Women


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No. 109 Path Road, Prey Sor East Village, Prey Sor Commune, Dangkor District, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

  • Tel: 023 231 590/ 023 231 596/ 081 231 590/ 088 279 5050

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