The story of A story of Angkor Hospital for Children
Learn how the hospital got its start
I was lucky this year to roam far and wide – both in Kentucky and around the world. I got to meet Kentuckians doing what they love all around the Commonwealth and share their stories in the magazine. I'm also lucky that soon I'll get to share the story of a Kentuckian and his work halfway around the globe. In a coming issue you'll meet “Dr. Bill,” a physician from Louisville who's spent the last few years in Siem Reap, Cambodia, where he feels fortunate to be working with local folks to make a difference for families and kids.
I visited Dr. Bill when my husband and I vacationed in Cambodia recently, and he was kind enough to sit down with us to tell us about the work of the hospital. We're in the midst of a very noisy brouhaha about health care here in our country, but seeing the families waiting quietly for heath care at the Angkor Hospital for Children where Bill Housworth is executive director reminded me just how lucky we are. Families face struggles most of us here in Kentucky can't imagine. You hear the phrase “living on two dollars a day” a lot, but Dr. Bill pointed out that that's awfully hard to understand if you don't live it.
Even more unimaginable is that following the atrocities (this is one of those times our language doesn't have words strong enough) of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia was left with fewer than 50 doctors. The situation could seem hopeless. Where do you even begin when so many families lack even the running water that could help prevent disease, and even if they could afford doctors, those doctors don't exist?
That's where this hospital comes in. Since 1999, they've provided high-quality, free health care to Cambodians. They even reimburse the cost of travel to those who can't afford the expensive trip to the city. Families who have to spend the night get sleeping mats and mosquito nets, and rice is provided to those who can't buy food.
I grew up in rural Kentucky where, by our country's standards, my family would be considered low income. That meant my parents' car was old. Our clothes were secondhand. We didn't go out to eat. A medical bill was cause for concern. I wouldn't have told you then that I was lucky. But we had a car – a way to get to a good doctor less than an hour away when we needed to. We had clothes and shoes to wear. We had food to eat. My parents had jobs and my brother I were free to go to school instead of work. It's easy to forget in our corner of the world how many people can't imagine a life so abundant.
It's easy – when you don't have to see them – to not think about kids who will beg in the street and families who will sell their only cow to pay for medicine for a sick child. It's only luck – pure random chance – that I was born where I was, that I grew up in Kentucky instead of Cambodia.
I'm lucky that I have the opportunity to travel and meet people like Dr. Bill and hear how the people of Cambodia are working now to take care of kids with such need. And while he's the first to tell you that it's the people of Cambodia doing the work – and they are; 99% of the hospital's staff is Cambodian – I'm proud to share a home state with him. It's easy to write a check. It's another world entirely to pack up your family (the doctor's wife, also a physician, and their daughter moved to Siem Reap together) and jump in the deep end. A lot of us wish we could do more. And while it may not be feasible for all of us to follow in his footsteps, we can share our good fortune and support the hospital's work.
I hope you'll visit the hospital's website and learn more about their work. They're currently working to raise $70,000 for surgeries, including 43 heart surgeries for children on a waiting list. If you're feeling lucky to have all that we have here in Kentucky, please do give them a hand. And stay tuned for more in an upcoming issue of Kentucky Monthly.