My time in Kenya was by far the best and most impactful experience of my life. From building bricks, to spending time at the children’s hospital, I learned so much about myself, others, and God. When I was applying for HOPE Youth Corps, I prayed God would take me somewhere where I could learn how to love others the most, because my theme scriptures for the year are John 13 (the washing of the disciples’ feet) and John 15:13. Kenya was the answer to my prayer, and I am so grateful that my first choice didn’t work out.
I have to say that the most impacting part of my time was the few days we were at the Kenyatta National Hospital in the pediatric ward. I was on an oncology floor, working with children in some of the wards. 60-70% of the children had retinoblastoma, which is a cancer in the eye, and almost all of them had only one eye or an eye patch the entire time. The first day we were at the hospital, we were only with the kids for a total of maybe two and a half hours or so. They were fairly reserved initially, but as we sang songs with them and held them, we felt them warming up. By the second day, after having only spent a couple hours with them the day prior, they were ECSTATIC to see us. My group was asked to help on another floor for a little while and while we were gone, the kids were asking for us, asking us to come to them. Seeing how joyful these precious children were to see us made my heart so full, and made me feel as though we were actually able to help relieve and distract them from their physical pain.
The third day we were there, I had been playing with this beautiful 3 year old girl named Shantel. She has retinoblastoma in her right eye so she is only able to see out of her left eye. The first day I met her, she was incredibly shy. There was a language barrier between us because she couldn’t speak English and I couldn’t understand Swahili. Yet despite this, we built a connection by me merely holding her, throwing her in the air, spinning her around, playing ball with her, etc. Our last day there, when I put her down to leave and say goodbye, she burst out in sobs when I walked away. Immediately I realized the impact God’s love had on these children. Going into the hospital, I felt so helpless and hopeless for these beautiful children who were suffering and in so much pain. I was frustrated that I couldn’t speak Swahili with them, that I couldn’t heal their pain, and that I had nothing to give them physically.
The team at Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital recently celebrated its 5 year anniversary. SKMH opened in April 2012 with the mission to meet the needs of poor children and women of Southern Cambodia. It is managed by HOPE worldwide . Since its opening, nearly 50,000 patients have been touched by the team. On May 26, the hospital honored 31 employees who have served since the hospital’s opening day. Through the dedication of its staff and supporters, SKMH has seen tremendous growth. Since its opening, the hospital has accomplished the following:
· More than 140,000 patient consultations with nearly 50,000 new patients
· 71% of visits have been for women and children
· Nearly 800 children have been born at the hospital since the opening of the Maternity building in November 2014
· 7 Cambodian doctors have graduated from three year hospital training program.
· Currently employs over 180 people
· The Neo Natal Intensive care unit opened November 2015. To date the NICU has served 49 children
· Centralized Medical Gas System for NICU and campus opened in November 2016.
· Surgical department opened in 2015
· Surgical team has performed over 360 surgeries in 2016, not including C-Sections. 86 surgeries have been for children
· Blood bank opened in August 2016
· A Learning Center for children of hospital staff opened on June 12
Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital has been blessed with international support from medical and administrative partners as well as volunteers from around the world to serve and teach. The local Cambodian staff continues to grow and serves as the primary patient care providers.
The team is grateful for all the support that has been given this past five years; however, there remains more to do. Future development includes the addition of a CT scan, upgraded X-ray diagnostic equipment, continued development of staff training programming and pursuit of international accreditations. Please consider how you can make a difference at the Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital. Go to https://www.hopeww.org/donate . Use the drop down box and select Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital. If you wish to learn more about the Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital, please visit www.skmh.org .
Dr. Rin Receiving the Empathy Amplified AwardClick here to watch .
Jenny Harkabus spent Christmas serving in the Philippines. She wrote this, and also made a short video:
I did not imagine that I would be spending Christmas in the Philippines for my first HOPE Youth Corps experience. This opportunity has deeply changed my perspective on the importance of service in my daily walk.
We are created in God's image, therefore we are meant to help and serve others. I know this to be true because I have never felt so used by God and fulfilled, than the times spent serving and pouring out my love in the Philippines.
James 1:27 says, " Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world." Some translations refer to this as true religion. The bible also stresses the importance of giving to the poor (1 John 3:17, Matt 9:21, Proverbs 14:31). God considers caring for the poor and orphans as true religion, yet this can be an area of faith that is overlooked.
I was privileged to spend time with girls who have experienced trauma and abuse at the HOPE worldwide center in Laguna. Many of these girls have been separated from their families, becoming orphans, as a result of the abuse they have experienced. I also received the opportunity to play with children within the community as we rebuilt their homes and provided them with medical care. I witnessed the children’s precious value for human relationships, as they clung to me emotionally and physically. They showed me instant love and respect, which I find to be rare in today’s society. Our focus should be about investing in others just as the children in the Philippines invested in me.