Posted By Faye Pyles, NP, Project HOPE volunteer on July 11, 2014

Labels: Cambodia , Humanitarian Aid, Alumni, Volunteers

Project HOPE volunteers arrive in Pnom Penh

Project HOPE volunteers from all over the United States arrived in Pnom Penh, Cambodia today to start what should be an exciting and rewarding mission.  The team is comprised of volunteers with a great depth of surgical experience and expertise.

Our orthopedic surgeon is experienced Project HOPE volunteer Dr. Paul Reiss from Seattle.  Our anesthesia team is comprised of very experienced nurse anesthetist, Judy Crowley, from Texas and Dr. Rachel Brown, from Tennessee, who is new to HOPE but experienced in health care in austere settings.  Our two OR nurses are Dakota Wheeler, from Florida, with a wealth of experience in the surgical arena as well as a previous HOPE volunteer and Amy Brunk, from Kansas, a new volunteer but an experienced operating room nurse.

HOPE volunteer Dr. Paul Reiss trains surgeons in Pnom Penh

As you can surmise we have brought a wealth of experience and talent from all over the U.S.  Despite the thirty hours of travel, we disembarked enthusiastically, ready to be part of the HOPE team.

Our energetic group of volunteers decided to take the afternoon to acquaint themselves with part of the history that has shaped the Cambodia we encounter today.  We visited the memorials for the victims of the Khmer Rouge Regime. The visit to Choeung Ek Memorial (the Killing Fields) and the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum set a somber tone for our first day.  To a person, however, the team found this an appropriate start to our sojourn in this beautiful country.

Participants in Pacific Partnership's surgical training in Pnom Penh pose for a group photo

The next day, which is historically the rest day for team members having crossed multiple time zones, several members of the team took a somewhat arduous one-day excursion trip to the historic temples of Angkor Wat.   This visit put into perspective the long and significant history of this country.   Cambodia is a nation of resilience, which has been shaped by a long and amazing history of grandeur and tragedy.  Sometimes playing the tourist is an essential component of understanding the countries in which we work.

Our orthopedics team work starts today with a cardiology symposium this morning and an orientation to the surgical areas this afternoon. This is an exciting day for our group. Coming from half a world away to exchange experiences and knowledge with our peers in Cambodia, we are all anxious to get started.  The cases reviewed this afternoon and in the morning will set the tone for the next four surgical days.  This will be a brief but exciting time for all involved.

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