Cambodia Project- The FINAL Week

So we’ve done it! We’ve worked out in Phnom Penh for 12 weeks now (3 months!) and this week was our last. The final hurrah.

Monday and Thursday, our admin days this week were spent report-writing for each of the settings and drawing our work to a close. It is really difficult to summarise our work into a few pages of a report but we tried! Although we both love the hands on Speech and Language Therapy work, we know that it is important to keep good records so that these can be passed on to the next cohort of Speech and Language Therapists who go to Cambodia. Hopefully our work can continue where we left off.

On Tuesday we went to say goodbye to our Speech Advisor Samnang and our Speech Advisor in-training Srey Lak at Children’s Surgical Centre. It is great that Samnang has someone to pass on his skills too – the further we spread the word about Speech and Language Therapy, the better. Srey Lak will shadow and learn from Samnang on Tuesday afternoons until she feels confident enough to work on her own at Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital. She is a trained midwife and full of enthusiasm for her new role. It is such good news as well that these two hospitals are willing to learn from each other and communicate as this was unheard of a few years ago. We had a second session with a boy we saw a few weeks ago with lots of sound substitutions in his speech making it difficult for him to be understood. We did some further assessment and with Samnang we decided on sounds to target with him in therapy. He has agreed to come regularly for therapy which is another success story! The twins were ill today but we also saw Samnang give advice to the parents of several young patients in the wards about post-op care and feeding. Samnang is using his leaflets wisely and we gave him more copies to start giving out. We ate lunch with Samnang as a special goodbye and also said goodbye to other staff we know at the hospital.

On Wednesday we saw Dr Alin at the National Paediatric Hospital (NPH) to help with her non-cleft caseload. Inevitably there were some cleft cases but this always tends to be the case. There were a few cases we referred to CCAMH (Centre for Child and Adolescent Mental Health) and a few that Dr Alin would like to see for therapy in her clinic. This week we saw the new clinic room being decorated along the corridor. This is exciting and the future at NPH for cleft and non-cleft patients alike looks very bright!

A little girl who loved playing to the crowd at NPH clinic

Friday brought us back to NPH for the final time and with it, so many babies! We saw Chanthy again, our Speech Advisor who works with Dr Alin now at the Friday clinics. She is hoping to stay working on Fridays until she has her baby next year and she is so confident now at giving advice for feeding and speech difficulties. This week we worked with Chanthy to train her in using the KASS (Khmer Assessment of Speech Sounds) which helps us to decide which speech sounds a child struggles with and which to target in therapy. She found it difficult to listen for the sounds at first but it takes practice. We found this one of the most difficult things to learn when we didn’t really know the language! The assessment involves asking the child to name pictures and writing down how they say them. As we have used this assessment a lot, we now know lots of weird and wonderful Khmer words such as ‘grapes’ (‘dom-be-an-buy-chew’) and ‘hammer’ (‘nya-new-ah’). It was great working with Dr Alin as well and she saw the young lady we brought in for a second opinion about her secondary palate surgery from another hospital. She now has to decide whether to have the surgery or not. A whirlwind day as always.

Chanthy, our Speech Advisor, giving early speech advice to a mum of a baby with cleft lip and palate.

It is so sad to write this final blog post and even sadder to leave everyone in Phnom Penh who continue to work tirelessly for children with Cleft Lip and Palate. We look forward to returning to Cambodia in the future and using our new found skills in jobs in the UK or USA.

Kristin, Samnang, Dr Alin, Chanthy and Lauren meet at NPH for one final goodbye


Goodbye and Good Luck! (‘Nee-hi’ and ‘Samnang la-or’)

Your cleft team signing off,

Lauren and Kristin

You can find all of our blog posts on CLAPA’s new web site too!


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