We started a free clinic at Rahab’s House Siem Reap! It is exclusively for the karaoke girls in the community. We do not treat anything major, just common digestive issues and STD’s. Nothing that requires a physical exam or anything invasive.
Two girls told Savry, our Assistant Director/Translator, that they were interested in getting some help at the clinic so we scheduled our first visit! I was so excited to see some of the Karaoke girls that were trusting enough to come to our place. I know the clinic is free but many of the locals that have heard about our place were turned off by the fact that we are a Christian organization and would rather not have anything to do with it. At the same time I was also pretty nervous because they were the first girls for me to see by myself and although I helped Dr. Carla for a few hours at the clinic in Svay Pak, I absolutely did not feel prepared. Thankfully Dr. Carla was not busy at the moment so I was able to call her with the details and get her orders/recommendations.
When the girls came in we went over their symptoms/concerns and with Savry’s help, I was able to explain the problem, why they were feeling the symptoms, and even give out prescription medication for their problems (with Dr. Carla’s approval, of course). What I couldn’t help but notice during all of this was Savry’s reaction. I noticed she became teary-eyed during the translation and I could tell that she was hurt by what the girls were saying about themselves and it was difficult for her to hear and then pass on the information. Cambodian culture largely believes these girls are trash and that includes Christians, often times. While Savry has been helpful and kind towards the girls (even gone so far as to house two of them with her), it has been hard to tell whether she was mimicking our behavior or whether she genuinely cared (we’re inclined to believe she genuinely cared but we are biased because she tries very hard to appease us at all times). But in this particular incident, she seemed to humanize them more than ever before. Our prayer is that if there are any preconceptions about these girls in her mind, that God would truly dispel them.
Because of these girls’ condition and medication requirement, we told them that they really need to stop drinking in order for the meds to work properly and for them to get better. Both of them shared stories about how they are forced to drink despite their medical conditions. They both laughed nervously and said they couldn’t stop even though they wanted to. If their boss saw them go throughout the night without drinking, it would result in them being fired, if not worse (threat of violence, physical abuse, placing debt on their family, etc). That is so frustrating! They cannot up and leave their job despite their health. They know it’s doing them harm, yet they are in psychological chains, bound to the club.
“Three rules in dealing with Cambodians: Be patient. Be very patient. Be extremely patient” -Reaksa Himm (a survivor of the Khmer Rouge who was buried alive with his dead family, author of two books, and devoted Christian). We met with Himm today and this was the best advice he gave us about Cambodia in every sense. He explained how we can no longer think about life the way we did back home. This isn’t the fast paced life where everything gets done instantly like we are used to. Everything takes time. A lot of time. This is most important to remember when thinking about the girls in the community. It will take time for the locals to trust us. It will take time for the girls to trust us. It will take time for them to see change and believe there is hope for them and put effort to make a change. Our job is to offer an opportunity and do our best to show that they are loved no matter what and there is hope and to do it patiently.