Volunteer brings essential First Aid training to Cambodia Community Project

A British volunteer has delivered ground-breaking first aid training to135 project staff and volunteers at Globalteer House, our Southeast Asia volunteer HQ in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The one-day course was designed specifically to meet the needs of people working in the developing world with an additional focus on emergency situations that can and do arise all too frequently in Cambodia.
 
In order to ensure the training was as relevant as possible, everyday household items were used instead of western medical supplies wherever possible, such as krormas – the traditional check Khmer scarf – for slings. In addition, the course also included sections on drowning, snake bites, spider bites, sun stroke, dehydration and heat exhaustion, all of which are serious problems in Cambodia.

It also included important and potentially life-saving subjects such as how to administer Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) to adults, children and babies, how to treat burns, and how to recognise and immobilise potentially broken bones.

Medical science or traditional healing?
 
The content of the programme was put together after much consultation with Globalteer staff in Siem Reap and delivered by returning volunteer Gemma Keating from the UK (pictured below, left) , an Intensive Care nurse based at London’s Royal Free Hospital.  

Having worked as a volunteer at Globalteer’s Cambodia Community Project for twelve weeks between November 2011 and February 2012, Gemma was acutely aware of the challenges she faced when she decided to return to Cambodia to offer the much-needed first aid training. As Gemma's conversations with her trainees highlighted:
 
“One of the Khmer delegates told me that real scientific medical knowledge had been all but wiped out under the Khmer Rouge, and that even now in rural areas they still rely heavily on traditional healing that has been passed on by word of mouth.
 
“Whilst some traditional methods are perfectly harmless - even though I would still not advise people to use them, like tapping someone firmly on the forehead when they have a nose bleed – others will actually do more harm than good. Applying fish sauce, salt, sand, cooking oil, honey or toothpaste to a burn, for example, is potentially very harmful, but these are all remedies that are regularly practised in villages around Siem Reap today”.  
 
Training days were spread over a three week period and offered to anyone working at Globalteer’s partner projects. Sessions were highly interactive, including demonstrations on CPR – using a doll to show how to administer to a baby – how to make slings for various types of breaks and sprains, and how to immobilise a patient if you suspect a break of any of the bones in the lower or upper leg.

Spreading the word

Gemma’s words of wisdom were simultaneously translated by a native Khmer speaking member of Globalteer’s staff and each delegate had to complete a test at the end of each session to measure their comprehension. Globalteer's team are currently working on a simple First Aid Guide in English and Khmer to be displayed in the projects who joined the training.
 
Feedback has been very encouraging and it seems that the impact of the first aid sessions will go far beyond even the 135 people who attended. After one session a Khmer member of staff told Gemma,

“Thank you for teaching us the right way. I am going to pass this on to my co-workers, and to my family and other villagers”.

The director of another project who had sent seven people for the training reported that they were now looking at supplying at least one and hopefully two proper first aid kits to each village they work with.
 
If you would like to help Globalteer with the work we are doing in Cambodia – from teaching and healthcare to clean water installation and farming – please visit our Volunteer Cambodia Community Project page.