Monday, June 22, 2009

Leaving everything for Cambodia

A family from the Louisville, Kentucky area left all the comforts of America to work in a hospital in Cambodia. Drs. Lori and Bill Housworth and their three children left for Cambodia after a volunteer visit to the country in 2002 moved them to do more.

The family fights with mosquitoes daily, and one of the children almost got taken away by an elephant, but the family says that have received more from the Cambodian people than they have given.

From the Courier Journal, writer Laura Ungar tells us the Housworth's story.

Living and working in Cambodia, the Housworths are reminded each day of why they are there.

The terrible legacy of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime remains. According to Friends Without a Border, 1.5 million people were executed, starved or died as the result of forced labor at their hands in the 1970s. "The genocide left the country's infrastructure decimated and her people orphaned," the organization wrote. "Today, many Cambodians still struggle to reconstruct their lives, while battling abject poverty."

Children suffering everything from dengue fever to heart defects come to Angkor from 60-190 miles away, often coming by ox-cart and motor scooters and selling belongings or borrowing money for travel expenses.

Bill recalled a girl who fell out of a tree. As her chest filled with blood, her family traveled 60 miles down a bumpy dirt road to the hospital, where she spent a week, but survived.

Bill said the hospital sees 400 children a day, and every evening the staff must make hard decisions about who is sickest and can stay. Many families set up camp on the grounds while children are treated, cooking food rations the hospital gives them.

Bill spends about a fifth of his time doctoring and the rest teaching residents and overseeing a mostly-Cambodian staff of 240, including 30 doctors and 100 nurses. Under his leadership, the hospital recently launched a heart surgery program in which donors pay for congenital defect repairs costing about $6,000. Six surgeries have been done so far, one on a little girl named Mey who had a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of her heart.

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