Healthcare students help out in Cambodia

21 August 2018 | Community
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Year 1 NUS Nursing student Nasrin Nadhirah playing with the local children

A group of NUS healthcare students from the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine (NUS Medicine) and Faculty of Science embarked on the 5th edition of Project DAMAI (Delivering Assistance and Medical Aid Internationally) from 23 to 31 July in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

A student-initiated overseas humanitarian project designed to empower Cambodians to play a more active role in managing their own health, Project DAMAI began in 2013 with students providing health education and screenings to less fortunate communities in Agam, Indonesia. This was later expanded to cover rural areas in other countries, such as Cambodia.

This year, the project was done in collaboration with the Muslim Healthcare Professionals Association (MHPA), Emaan Foundation Cambodia and Malaysian non-profit organisation Hospital Beyond Boundaries. In preparation, the team — comprising 19 NUS Nursing students, two NUS Pharmacy students and one NUS Medicine student — helped out in a local medical screening by the MHPA for beneficiaries of the Tabung Amal Aidilfitri Trust Fund, which provided valuable insights into how to better structure their health screenings and interact with members of the community during the overseas trip.

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NUS students teaching local children in a Cambodian school the seven steps of hand-washing

The students provided basic screenings such as measurement of blood glucose levels and blood pressure for over 90 villagers, in collaboration with local healthcare professionals. They also advised on matters such as dengue and water-borne diseases, diet planning and hypertension and diabetes management.

At Boeng Taprohm Primary School, they taught some 200 students how to correctly wash their hands, how to treat superficial wounds and the importance of proper toilet hygiene, among other things. Since healthy living is best cultivated from a young age, their efforts supported the work of teachers and staff in promoting a healthy lifestyle among the students.

The trip also included visits to healthcare facilities and cultural areas which allowed the NUS students to gain a better understanding and appreciation of Cambodia, while forging valuable networks with the local organisations.

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The team with the village head, his family and Cambodian volunteers

Project DAMAI gave participants the opportunity to put into practice the skills and knowledge they had learnt in the classroom and during their work attachments, while adapting to the local conditions. It also allowed students from the different schools and faculties at NUS to interact and better understand one another’s profession, and offered a unique journey of self-discovery as they were called to reflect on the values they held dear as individuals and as healthcare workers.

Furthermore, information gleaned from the trip allowed the students to better understand the healthcare needs of Cambodians, in terms of the prevalence of diseases or gaps in medical aid and awareness for instance. This will in turn help the next cohort build on that data for more effective outreach, contributing to the project’s sustainability.

For Year 1 NUS Pharmacy student Aiman Nurjannah Binte Abdul Halim, the experience aided in her personal and professional growth. “The school outreach and community health screenings taught me so much about gratitude and my professional role as a pharmacist,” she said.

For many of the students, the close bonds forged with their peers while sharing such a meaningful experience was also one of the things they treasured most.   

“As much as it was an eye-opener for me, the friendships forged with my fellow NUS healthcare students and Cambodian healthcare students and the memories created through the trials and tribulations we experienced are what I will hold on to dearly as a highlight of my twenties,” shared Year 1 NUS Nursing student Siti Syuhaidah Binte Ishak.

By Year 2 NUS Nursing student Nur Insyirah Bte Hasim, Project Director for Project DAMAI 2017/18