Janne's March Newsletter
How much has changed since we made the decision to finish and start our first phase of the operations of Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital. We have had an unusual amount of visitors come and see what we have done. That is always an honor.
It is relatively straight forward to explain to people the various functions of the hospital space, what will happen, where it will happen, how it will happen. Visitors are amazed at what you and I have accomplished so far – the building is impressive – as Bart said - a man who has built several hospitals in Asia – what a beautiful space – what a lovely design. I can’t help but suffer from a few pangs of pride coming from a person with so much expertise.
I have had the privilege of sharing and talking with Gary – a physician who knows Cambodia – serving in so many capacities in the health field for a number of years – our vision of reaching out to all women in Cambodia –regardless of status or rank. Gary’s compassion and vision match ours – he reminds all of us how important it is to treat each woman with dignity and respect.
But it is the conversations that go deeper that touch me so – this week we had a group of women from the French community come and see. The questions of why came up – why do this at all – it is such a big vision – so much effort involved. My answers were not flip. I asked, if you and I have breast cancer, how many of us would get help immediately – not only would we get help, we would almost expect it as a right. Everyone raised their hand.
But if I was an ordinary Cambodian woman and I had breast cancer – I would have no options – nowhere to go – no one to hear my cry. I shared how when I discovered I had breast cancer – the answers to my illness came very quickly – and so I got help, received the best care and have been cancer free for almost 6 years. At the same time we had several Cambodian women in our program also ill with breast cancer – one of them the tumor had ulcerated – there were no options for these women – and they died a very painful and agonizing death.
Then I asked the question: why could I expect and receive treatment when Cambodian women couldn’t – am I of more value then these women – are any of us of more value than a Cambodian woman. By what standards do we judge the value of people? We are worthy of treatment simply because of an accident of birth – born in nations that have evolved to providing such treatment – should we not do the same for these women in Cambodia. Then I concluded – if I had been an ordinary Cambodian woman with my breast cancer – I would be dead today.
Several months ago I had the privilege of bringing all our women from cottage industry out to see the progress of the hospital. These women have had harsh lives, sold into the sex trade, half of them living with AIDS. Tabitha had allowed them to become women of integrity and beauty. As usual, I was talking and showing the spaces – what we would do etc – at first there was a lot of chatter but the group had turned quiet. I turned to see what was going on. The women had tears streaming down their faces – this is for us, they said – how very good that anyone would build something so very beautiful for us!
Last week I had the privilege of being interviewed by a young man attending university here in Phnom Penh. He was studying medicine and he had to choose a subject. He chose Breast cancer. He asked to interview me on camera and I agreed. As usual we covered all the facts and the purposes of the hospital and breast cancer. He had 2 female assistants and they added their questions. As the interview came to an end – he asked one final question- what you would say to Cambodian women who have breast cancer today. My answer came quickly – I am sorry - so very sorry - I have failed you.
I stand before my God in wonder – that He would grant me so many choices – that He would grant me the privilege of bringing choices to the women of Cambodia. I stand in wonder before my God in the miracle of each of you – each of you who stand with the women of Cambodia – what an honor that is! What a gift of life you have given! May none of us ever become weary of that gift!