Up Close With: Chhunhuot Cheng and Maroith Ieng, Khmer Sight
Doctor Chhunhuot Cheng and Nurse Maroith Ieng both started volunteering for Khmer Sight, a foundation that provides free eye surgery to those who are unable to access or afford proper care in Cambodia, in 2017. Here is their inspirational story.
How did you learn about Khmer Sight Foundation (KSF)?
CC: I first heard about the Khmer Sight Foundation four years ago from a friend who was an active medical volunteer for KSF. I asked him to sign me up as a medical volunteer for one mission so that I could experience my first community volunteer work. However, after having gone through one week of the hectic mission, I came to the realisation that my little contribution as a volunteer could make an immense difference on the patients’ life, which was the gift of new sight. I was amazed by all the hard work and loving kindness of the local and international volunteers working hand in hand to carry out the sight-saving mission.
MI: While interviewing at a private clinic, I came across the Khmer Sight team who was using the clinic for a mission. What I saw that day made me want to volunteer with the Khmer Sight Foundation. From my experience volunteering, I found that the team was caring and that working towards their cause was very rewarding. From there I decided to join Khmer Sight full-time.
What did you do before?
CC: I was in the fourth year of my degree at the University of Health Sciences. During my time at Khmer Sight I was able to complete my degree, and I am now a qualified general doctor.
MI: I was working as a nurse in a private eye clinic after graduating from university.
What do you do for Khmer Sight Foundation?
CC: At first, I was assigned to translate between the international doctors and the Khmer patients. I was then taught to do the Visual Acuity (VA) testing which is an important procedure to see how good or bad each patient’s vision is before they see the doctors for more tests. Now that I am a doctor, I am a part-time medical staff for Khmer Sight Foundation. I join the team on missions to screen for cataract and pterygium patients. On every mission, I work as an anaesthetist or a runner in the operating theatre. I also help with other business responsibilities, such as social media, IT and equipment maintenance.
MI: As Head Nurse at Khmer Sight, my role has evolved to include more than nursing. During our missions, I support our volunteer surgeons as a scrub/theatre nurse for cataract and pterygium surgeries. I also provide patient care through interpreting, counselling patients about surgery, organising their transport, food and accommodation for surgery dates, and following up with patients for treatment advice. I also provide operational support by planning and attending screening camps in the provinces, organising and supervising the flow of patients for surgery, and liaising with organisers to ensure we are meeting our objectives.
How has this experience been? Have you found it rewarding?
CC: Working as a volunteer at KSF has been a wonderful and rewarding experience for me. First, I have had the chance to make new good-hearted friends from all around the world who share the same interest in helping people in need. Second, as a medical volunteer, I have had the opportunity to be trained by a variety of experienced eye doctors and surgeons who are willing to share and train our local doctors and medical students. Finally yet importantly, the inexhaustible encouragement, support and motivation from the Founder, H.E Sean Ngu, Medical Director (Professor Sunil Shah) and the KSF team have enabled me to work more efficiently, positively and independently.
MI: I have had an incredible experience while working with Khmer Sight. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences in my life.
If someone asked you about joining KSF, what advice would you give them?
CC: I would, without any hesitation, encourage them to give it a try. If they join us, even once, as a volunteer they will have their hearts touched by the amazing eye-restoring mission and the laughter of the patients who get to see the world again after years of blindness. You don’t have to be a medical professional or speak Khmer; everyone can be a volunteer, everyone can do something, everyone can jump in and help.
MI: I would let people know that Khmer Sight is really about helping people in need so you need to have a good heart. We have a great team that always supports each other and we work hard so that the charity can make the biggest impact. Because there is so much to do, you will always have a chance to learn and practice lots of different skills.
What are your plans for the future?
CC: I have been volunteering for more than four years and I am now really into Ophthalmology. I am planning to sit the local Medical Entrance Exam for the Ophthalmology residency next year.
MI: I want to further my skills and specialty to be even better at my job and help more people.
How is KSF helping you to achieve your dreams?
CC: KSF is now leading my way to becoming an eye doctor by linking me to the eye-field environment where I could meet up and learn from world-renowned ophthalmologists who are willing to share their experience and training in Ophthalmology.
MI: Before I started at Khmer Sight, I wasn’t sure which specialty I wanted to work in, but I was happy to help in any way I could. Thanks to Sean Ngu and Professor Sunil Shah, Victor Norris and the whole team, I found my passion in eye care. They believed in me and gave me a sense of direction that I never dreamed I would have. I am so happy I can pursue my dream of working in medicine and helping to make people’s lives better.
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If you are interested in volunteering for Khmer Sight Foundation, please visit: http://khmersight.com/