The Gift of Khmer Sight

To picture oneself as an older individual that has limited access to medical care to the point that your eyesight begins to deteriorate at such a rate where you ultimately become blind is incomprehensible, particularly in Australia. However, this is a common and daily struggle for many Cambodian citizens as it is estimated that approximately 180,000 of those citizens are blind. Additionally, a further 10,000 Cambodians will end up losing their sight (Mivision, 2017). This is purely due to lack of medical resources and personnel, especially after the Pol Pot regime as the country only has 32 ophthalmologists (White & Mandal, 2017). Adding to this many Cambodians only earn up to $2 a day and can simply not afford the cost involved.

To counteract this issue, Khmer Sight Foundation (KSF) aims to support the training of future eye care physicians and ophthalmologists by bringing in international ophthalmologists and surgeons to both train and help the current Cambodian nurses, both student and graduates, by increasing their skillset and knowledge. In addition to training Cambodian students and recent graduates the Khmer Sight Foundation also carries out in-field missions providing eye care for Cambodians located throughout the provinces. For the January mission, a few members of the KSF packed equipment and staff into a van and drove 2 hours south of Phnom Penh to reach the Lumchang, Boeing Tranh Khang Tboung and Khvav villages in the Samraong district of the Takéo province for vision tests or visual acuity (VAs).

During these in-field missions there’s a great hustle and bustle with many other medical teams working alongside each other to provide medical attention and health care items for people. Aside from low resources and staff numbers the other issues that Khmer Sight faces is for the local Cambodians to trust the international team to test their eyes and go through with the operation eventually (Sreypich, 2017). Throughout the years that trust has built itself organically, particularly once groups of people return home after their cataract surgery. The results of clear eyesight are almost immediate after a few days and word begins to spread about the work carried out by the Khmer Sight Foundation.

Founded 2015 by both Sean Ngu and the late Dr. Kim Frumar, an Ophthalmologist from Chatswood, New South Wales, Australia. Dr. Frumar’s vision for the nongovernment organisation (NGO) involved training locals rather than constantly relying on international support, in order for the health care to remain and flourish in Cambodia (Chatswood Private Hospital, 2016).

These days the KSF team are quite popular with the locals however, the location of their main hub is constantly changing, as there is no permanent building to house the staff and equipment. During the November to January and February missions the Khmer team were fortunate enough to utilise the Metro Medical Center in Phnom Penh. Once a space for cosmetic enhancement procedures it now harbours elderly and rural Cambodians that are brought in the morning and moved through until the late evening for re-screening and re-testing to note the progression of their condition and finally for cataract surgery.

While the current medical centre is a beautiful building perfect for their needs, unfortunately it is not permanent. A new cosmetic company will be running up shortly and will use the space at Metro, therefore a new future for the Khmer Sight Foundation lies with the completion of the new medical centre appropriately named, The Khmer Sight Institute, located in Preak Leap, Phnom Penh. This new area will be able to provide medical care and house patients for various health conditions. From that, a space will be provided to the foundation in order to carry out more surgeries and eye testing. 

As you read this, missions and surgeries are still being carried out alongside well-established professionals from locations such as the UK, India, Singapore and Australia. And with that the local team continues on providing the gift of sight once again to those who need it most.

References:

  • Chatswood Private Hospital. (2016, August 23) Dr Kim Frumar's Legacy Continues In Cambodia [News]. Retrieved 9 January 2018, from https://www.cphospital.com.au/news/cisa-wildlife-alliance-collaborate-improve-health-standards-cambodia/

  • Mivision (2017, April 18). Cambodian Prince to Visit Australia for Khmer Sight Fundraisers [News]. Mivision.com.au. Retrieved 9 January 2018, from https://www.mivision.com.au/cambodian-prince-to-visit-australia-for-khmer-sight-fundraisers/

  • White, J. & Mandal, P. (2017, September 19). Cambodian Mission [Blog post].Association of Optometrists.Retrieved 9 January 2018, from https://www.aop.org.uk/ot/in-practice/practitioner-stories/2017/09/19/cambodian-mission

  • Sreypich. (2017, November 22). Khmer Sight Foundation Volunteer [Blog post]. Retrieved 9 January 2018, from http://sreypich.ligeracademyblog.org/2017/11/22/khmer-sight-foundation-volunteer/

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