Ship of Life
CAMBODIA 2008 by Max Baker
Thursday, June 5, and we were on our way to Cambodia — my wife Ann’s first trip and my second. Mike and Allison Justus from Searcy were with us, and we met Kent and Kasey Howze of Dallas, on the way. No problems going over, if you don’t count almost missing our connections in Dallas, missing them in Hong Kong, and going (unscheduled) through Taipei and Bangkok. The fact that our luggage didn’t show up until Tuesday was minor,as well. We were actually the third medical team on the Ship of Life, though a number of individuals have come to work in the past several months.
We met the ship at Kabal Kos, on the Mekong River—the third day the ship had been docked at that location. The ship’s schedule is set by the Ministry of Health based on the area population, but the ship usually stays three days at each location. We were in Kandal Province, just south of Phnom Penh. The ship will spend three months at about fifteen locations in this province and then move north to Kampong Chong Province for three months. The cycle is then repeated so that the ship visits each area twice in a year. The ship must also go into dry dock every two years for inspection and painting.
After a last day at Kabal Kos, the ship moved on to Ko Ki, about three kilometers down the river. Our patients had to negotiate quite a steep bank to reach the ship’s gangplank and the ship’s crew helped by digging steps into the dirt of the river bank. Ko Ki was a good location for observation of river life, as we docked next to a ferry landing. What could be crammed onto the ferries — from baskets to cows, to trucks, and of course, motorcycles — was amazing.
Once on the ship, patients were interviewed by Allison Justus and Ann with the help of translators, and had their blood pressures and temperatures taken before seeing the physicians or dentist. Dr. Ly, the ship’s physician, and Dr. Mike Justus, each saw about one hundred patients per day, while Dr. Kent Howze, assisted by his daughter Kasey, saw about thirty dental patients a day.
For the last day on the river, we moved about ten kilometers further south to Dei Edth. There we enjoyed a jump rope exhibition with most of the village children and many of the ship’s crew and medical team. We closed our time on the ship with a pizza dinner and good fellowship with the crew. Captain Nem, the translators, the ship’s cook, Darith, and the rest of the crew were outstanding throughout our trip and are a real credit to the ship.
A highlight of the trip was our opportunity to attend Bible class and church services at the Partners in Progress house in Phnom Penh. Sunday morning services were in English and Sunday evening services were primarily in Khmer. Four delightful ladies are presently living in the house and working with World English Institute students. They were able to join us on some restaurant outings. Allison Justus stayed an extra week to work with Troy and Tabitha Snowbarger in the Nutritional Feeding Program. We saw the food trucks being loaded the morning we left Phnom Penh.
To summarize, the work in Cambodia is progressing well, and the opportunity to see a part of it closely and help with the work there was certainly time well spent. Everyone should go!
Ship Of Life
1. The Ship of Life is now treating over 100 patients a day as it cruises up and down the Mekong River
2. The word is getting around. Folks are coming from far and wide
3. Mother is thrilled when told her infant is going to get well
4. First opportunity to see a doctor in 80 years
5. Dr. A. D. Smith, Texarkana, AR discusses patient’s cancer surgery
6. Dr. Dave Darrah, Smithville, TN examining diabetic patient
7. Project Director Rick Northen, DDS
8. Bill Kidd, Lab Technician provides training for staff
9. Captain Nem pilots the ship safely on the Mekong River