As our bus heads east from Phnom Penh and the neon signs fade away, our team finds ourselves in Prey Veng, a rural province located 2 hours away from the bustling capital of Cambodia. During my time on the field, I took part in 2 of the current projects of GX Foundation, namely the cataract blindness elimination and vector borne disease (VBD) control project.
The cataract blindness elimination program of the foundation aims to address the backlog cataract cases in their 5 project countries through mobilizing Chinese medical teams to help provide free cataract surgery. Our team spent most of our time at Prey Veng Provincial Hospital conducting quality of life surveys (with the help of a translator) with the patients awaiting to undergo operation and their family members. Whilst a successful cataract surgery undeniably improves vision, our survey data also demonstrated that the restoration of sight significantly increases many aspects of the quality of life of the patients and their households. Many patients were grateful to have access to such high-quality medical intervention and I found it especially heartwarming when they shared about the aspirations they had post-surgery. Some patients had lost their vision for a long period of time and were excited to see the faces of their loved ones again; others expressed their desire to return to work and regain their ability to contribute to the society.
Visiting the households of patients who have recovered from cataract surgery was the highlight of my trip. We were able to spend some time with the patients at their homes, engaging in conversations to learn more about their lives, while the doctors did a follow-up check on their operated eye. Despite the language barrier, we could still communicate with the patients through non-verbal cues like smiles and waves. The patients’ genuine gestures of warm smiles and words of gratitude post-operation reinforced the meaningful purpose of this programme and I feel so privileged to witness this touching embodiment of people-to-people connectivity.
With regards to the VBD control project, our team focused on identifying the most ideal mode of mosquito control targeted at the different locations and communities of our project countries. In order to thoroughly evaluate the effectiveness of the different models of mosquito lamps and insect glue traps, we had to clear the body and bottom tray of each lamp to compare the number of mosquitoes attracted at 4 different time points throughout the day (4am, 8am, 4pm, 8pm). Although it requires patience to properly clean the bars from outside the cage, our team was able to identify the more effective designs and certain limitations that we have to consider before expanding its use to more field sites. As this project is still in its experimental phase, I have gotten a better grasp of what it is like to initiate and test a pilot project. I look forward to continuing with the testing and seeing the implementation of VBD control at the project sites eventually.
Photos 1 & 2. Conducting quality of life surveys at Prey Veng Provincial Hospital
Photo 3: Cleaning the mosquito lamp
Photo 4: Checking insect glue trap
Placement Site: GX Foundation