A blog post from Friends-International Executive Director and Founder Sebastien Marot, in Phnom Penh.
‘Today I went with Phally (Mith Samlanh’s Program Coordinator) to visit a few of our Drop-In Centers in Phnom Penh which I had not visited in a while. It is always a great pleasure to jump on a moto with Phally and just come unexpectedly into a center and see how things actually are working. I must say, to my great satisfaction, everything was running very smoothly: a good day!
We also came to our Mobile Drug Drop-In Center, parked in one of the wild temples (Wats) of Phnom Penh: huge oversized concrete elephants holding lotus flowers in their trunks, colorful Nagas (snake carvings) with a thousand teeth and various other animals with humans on their backs. Behind, by the crematorium, our bus is parked.
I get off the motorcycle and the first person I see is Seyha, a boy I know from oh so many years ago… He jumped in my arms, which is always a surprise, and did not hug me, but squeezed me really hard: the little boy had indeed turned into a strong 20-something year old man! We started catching up on things and I rapidly discovered that he is married now with a 4 year old boy who, as quite often is the case, is living with his grandparents in the country-side… He then started explaining to me something about a younger brother which I did not fully understand. Frustrated, he grabbed my hand and told me to come with him to his house. Phally and I just followed him through one of the typical slums by the river to his “house”: a corrugated iron room he rents for 15$ per month… As my eyes adjusted to the darkness of the room, someone started slowly crawling out from under the wooden bed: I realized that someone was sleeping in a hammock attached under the bed.
It is Seyha’s friend (he calls him his ‘younger brother’) who was obviously in a really bad state. His entire left arm from the shoulder to under the elbow was swollen and dangerously purple, and his elbow hung at a strange angle: 5 days ago he was involved in a motorcycle accident and went to the hospital. However, because he could not pay, he had been released from there. I asked if they had taken an x-ray… of course not! We sent him to see our doctor immediately and he was off to the hospital again, but this time with the right support… unfortunate that this is what is needed for poor people to receive decent care… My frustration gave way to more positive feelings when, back at the Mobile Drop-In Center, Seyha explained to me that he was now a Peer Educator in the area, providing support and advice to other youth, mainly drug users. He actually had come to receive his new t-shirt and proudly immediately put it over his shirt… You never know what will come your way when you jump on a motorcycle with Phally…!’