Cambodia has the highest percentage of handicapped people in the world. It is common and normal to see people with only one leg hobbling along the roadway. We assisted with the distribution of 1,000 wheelchairs donated by the Latter-Day Saints Church to handicapped individuals. It was a very moving experience to witness the emotions of the many recipients. (Contributed)
November 13, 2008
I am writing my final article from Cambodia and wondering where the last year and a half has gone. Time seems to have flown by. We have had many wonderful experiences and made many wonderful friends while serving here.
We will leave Cambodia with very mixed emotions and many fond memories. We have met some of the finest people in the world. Their ways are different from ours in the United States, but, in many respects, they are the same. Many of the people have the same wants and desires as ours; we are all truly “Children of God.” We would like to feel we have made a difference in the lives of some people, but the question is how much difference? Our purpose has been to teach them about the gospel of Jesus Christ and self-reliance. We are very careful not to continue the “give away” programs that are very prevalent in this third world country. There is a lot of money from many organizations and countries donated here, and it is questionable how much of the money actually reaches the people.
I have worked in the International University Dental School both instructing and supervising the students with their treatments. The fees the university charges are minimal (extraction is $3, amalgam filling $3, denture $50, root canal $13), but they are still often difficult for the people to manage financially. We have supplemented the expenses for many, but we try to have some small investment from the patient. We try to have them pay something for the services and we pay the difference.
Occasionally there are individuals who, through no fault of their own, are left severely handicapped due to accidents. We assisted with a wheelchair distribution of 1,000 wheelchairs donated by the Latter-Day Saints Church to handicapped individuals. It was a very moving experience to witness the emotions of the many recipients. Cambodia has the highest percentage of handicapped people in the world. It is common and normal to see people with only one leg hobbling along the roadway. There is a long history of war in this part of the world, and there have been a large number of landmines placed throughout the country by many countries and enemies. Even today, there are hundreds of people a year killed by residual landmines and many more injured. The heavily-mined borders of the country during the Vietnam War and during the Khmer Rouge massacre that followed have left many dangerous landmines. The landmines and fear was quite successful in keeping the people confined within the country borders. The Khmer Rouge killed 25 percent (2 million people) of the population during the rein (1970-75) following the removal of troops from Vietnam by the United States.
We have been very thrilled to work with the young people in this land of Cambodia. We feel certain this next generation will be much stronger in their faith and confidence than the “shell-shocked” generation of the Khmer Rouge experience. Almost everyone we meet had someone from his or her family killed by the regime. The current generation has, for the most part, put the KR behind them and they are ready to move on.
Education is important to them and they seem to have a desire to improve their skills and knowledge. Almost all of the young people speak English to some degree. They know learning English is very important in assisting them to obtain good employment and financial success. There are many private schools and universities throughout Phnom Penh. The public schools are quite weak and, as a result, many private schools have emerged to educate the young people.
We will be happy to return home to our comfortable surroundings, family and friends, but this experience in Cambodia has been life changing. We are grateful to the Lord for allowing us to serve in this part of His vineyard.
Mike and Mary Lee Morgan are on an 18-month assignment in the Cambodia Phnom Penh Mission of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. They have been assigned to do both proselyting and humanitarian services for the Cambodian people. Dr. Morgan retired from his dental practice in Zanesville, after 41 years of practice. He will periodically write about their adventures.