23 August, 2010


Wayne went to Phnom Penh (the city about an hour and a half away) for a couple of days. I felt honored that he trusted me with giving the HIV+ kids their twice daily medication. He has it all set up and a relatively fail proof system so no one is forgotten, but I was still freaking nervous! To put it in perspective, it’s not like forgetting a dose of Tylenol or some antibiotic. This medicine keeps them alive. I don’t know what missing a dose will do in their system and I certainly didn’t want to find out.
The children, even those as young as 3 or 4 know the routine and know which colorful plastic basket is theirs (which was GREAT since I still have yet to remember their names or even how to pronounce them). Paul a Cambodian older fellow sleeps in the boys dorm each night, so he was there also making sure the line was straight and finding those that weren’t there yet and making sure water bottles were filled to help in the ease of swallowing the sometimes large pills.

It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Something that I take for granted in America…medicine and the ability to purchase it, is not always the case here. The HIV-AIDS medication available in Cambodia is not the stuff that is available in the US. There is something like 5 levels of medication made and here they can only get (or afford to import) up to Level 2. One of the little boys takes 2.5 large pills and then one small one and also this chewable white disk-like pill which I am told tastes utterly awful; and judging by the look on his face and his quick gulping of water the description is accurate.
Although some of the children are HIV+ (from the Wat Opot Website) “…visitors to Wat Opot rarely, if ever, feel the presence of the virus. The children play, eat, go to school, make mischief, do peculiarly moving things – like any children in any community. The only real difference that can be seen most days is at 7 am and at 7 pm, when the children requiring medication line up in front of the infirmary with a bottle of water clutched in their hands. Once they’ve received their medication and a snack, they’re either off to school or off to take advantage of the last moments of play before bedtime.

It is usually not until one sees this daily ritual that one learns which children have AIDS and which ones don’t. One of the primary goals of The Wat Opot Children’s Center is to restore the joy of living to these adults and children – and as evidenced from the many photographs visitors and volunteers have taken, our method works!”

The children do occasionally get sick, the virus causes their immune system to go down, so they are more susceptible to common colds, skin problems, ear infections, etc. Some of the smaller ones have big blister like open sores on their neck and heads. When it gets bad, they have to have their hair cut really short; the only way to apply soothing medication on the sores until they go away.The little girls really hate that part and this little one (the best way I can pronounce her name is "Shrey Neek") was unhappy for days at her new look! 

She found a little red plastic box and it became her 'security blanket'.  She eventually came up later that afternoon and put her hand into mine and we walked around the property...not saying anything, just walking.  An unspoken acceptance on both sides.  She will do that occasionally now.  Crawl into my lap and we sit without playing, teasing, or giggling.  Just a peaceful moment between a me and a child.  A child who has already had an unfathomable life; a life I can't even begin to relate to.

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