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With a lot of help from our friends TLC is entering into a new phase that will enhance the medical care that we provide. With funding from IMPACT-Norway and IMPACT-Switzerland we are constructing 5 floating clinics (Mobile Marine Mini-Clinics or "M3Cs")to place in the larger villages on the Tonle Sap Lake.
This story though is about the sixth clinic, funded through our friends in Canada--KIDS and by IMPACT-UK. It is the first to be completed this year and placed on the Stung Sen River.

Construction begins with the fabrication of steel pontoons. Each M3C will sit atop 7m by 12m platform. Work is taking place at the Port of Siem Reap in the village of Chong K'neas.

For Adrianne Dartnell (President of KIDS) and Rick Lennert (V.P. of KIDS) their charitable work is very much hands-on, and for almost an entire month they could be found in Chong K'neas putting the finishing touches on the M3C that together with Compassionate Eye and IMPACT-UK they have funded in an act of love.

Rick Lennert assists our local engineer, Sophal, from The Iron Work Shop in solving a problem with adjoining roof structures.

Rick who has been a shipwright, a fisherman and now a contractor in Nanaimo BC certainly isn't someone who can just "supervise".

Multiple M3Cs are being built simultaneously. The Stung Sen Clinic has a distinctive "outhouse", the exterior of which belies the relative sophistication of its interior.

The following is from the blog of KIDS:

This week the floating health clinic has taken a big step forward. The prefabricated building is nearing competition and is now bolted down to the floating platform.

Things have gone very well except we hit some snags with the construction of the bathroom so we will be completing it ourselves, as some of the aesthetics were lost in translation.

Bathrooms here are purely functional and on the lake they often consist of a simple frame on the back of a building covered with boards, tarps or rice sacks and one or two boards over the water and presto you have, as they say here ...a happy room. It goes without saying that this is an environmental faux pas. Health is the main focus of The Lake Clinic (TLC) along with education, disease prevention and assisting villagers with the use and maintenance of bio sand filters. The TLC wants to lead by example and so we are going to be containing water hyacinths, which are floating aquatic plants that grow like weeds here and containing them in a tank under the bathroom. The hyacinths will capture and treat the waste in an ultra low tech, cheap and easily replicated manner. Jon Morgan, the founder of TLC, is in contact with a man who has done his PHD on the water quality on the lake; his simple method of using these plants, that are voracious feeders, will quickly turn the effluent/black water to near grey water quality, not perfect but eons closer to a solution in this harsh environment with no power and miles from anywhere.

Each day we head out to the Port where the clinic is being built. As we travel through town, by the beautiful hotels and into the countryside the poverty slowly starts to emerge and by the time we are in the Port area it is hammering at your senses. The crowded, thatched hovels are crammed together over or on the edge of the lake; the dirt/mud road deteriorates into a bone jarring ride, some days we have to walk as the road is too rough. The heat, smell of rotting fish, dust and lack of toilets make this a very sad place. Small children play happily in the polluted water not realising what contaminates this water holds, while others pick their way along in bare feet on the way to school. Every day we are reminded that life can be so unfair and it helps to know that together we are all assisting those that have been placed in these untenable situations.

The doctors, nurses and midwives of TLC have been facing challenges of their own of late. A few weeks ago the TLC 1 lost it transmission; a replacement is on order from Vietnam and still in transit. This has a huge impact on the clinic staff as they have to transport themselves and their gear on a much smaller boat; towing cooking material, medical equipment in an even smaller boat behind. It is getting hot here, 30 plus each day. The teams are putting in long days treating patients then sleeping and eating wherever they can find space on other boats, schools or floating homes for four days a week, basically camping on the lake. We have been out on the lake several times over the years and at the best of times it can be an endurance test. The floating clinic will be going even further afield to the Stung Sen River; with the TLC 1 out of commission that area is not being served at all at present. To say we are inspired by Jon’s vision and commitment to health care and the TLC staff is an understatement; we, the staff and no doubt the villagers are all eagerly awaiting the completion and delivery of the new clinic to serve the Stung Sen area.

Finally the day arrived when the M3C was near enough to completion to set upon the adventure of towing it across the lake to the Stung Sen, but not without having a proper ceremony to bless our endeavors.

Adrianne Dartnell (foreground) sits with Jon Morgan, Mieko Morgan, Bevan Rakoia and TLC staff await the arrival of local monks to begin the blessing of this clinic.

TLC staff, Sreymom (L) and Pheartra (R)

Under Tow: 2 boats were needed to pull the M3C and the disabled TLC-1 across the lake.

It wasn't a luxury cruise. Quite often just simple muscle power was required.
(Rick Lennert, Jon Morgan and Bun Chun)

From KIDS' Blog:
We arrived at the village late afternoon on our third day of traveling. Again our landing had some bumps, as trying to park the clinic and bring alongside the towed TLC 1 (which was on it's way to Phnom Penh for repairs) had its challenges. We managed to thump into the sloped bank and tie up to some trees and bushes, finding out later we destroyed two women’s fishing nets in the process; which we payed for. We secured the four boats we were traveling with and headed on to shore to meet the villagers and look around.
Traveling through Cambodia we find there are many levels of poverty; ranging from those that live a subsistence living with just enough to feed their families and send a few children to school to those that cannot feed their families but have access to some support or aid. Here on the Stung Sen we see the worst kind of poverty, where people live in terribly difficult physical conditions, have little food, no health care , no clean water and little support, misery and survival are the words that can describe this type of poverty. We walked through the dried mud village, where many naked and half clothed children wandered carrying younger siblings. We met some of the families, their homes barely covered with thatch or tarps and not adequate to fend off the hoards of insects or the rain. Most of the land disappears in the rainy season adding another challenge for these families as they have to find ways to float their homes for several months. The one school is on high enough ground that it can keep its doors open at least 7 months of the year but the flooding waters are slowly breaking down the structure and this year, with the worst flooding in fifty years, the water was knee deep in the classrooms. The people greeted us cautiously and were happy the clinic was back with a new more permanent facility. The children, as always were excited to meet new people. After a short walk we headed back on board the clinic and our hearts were heavy with the situation these people face.

A little later a woman came to visit us, through an interpreter she told us how her husband had drowned during the floods, leaving her with ten children. It took the community a few days to find his body, she wanted to have her husband cremated as is customary here however she could not afford this and so they tied a rock to his waist put his body in a sack and and sunk him at the mouth of the river, she hopes one day she can retrieve his bones for a proper cremation and ceremony. Cambodian people don’t often cry but as she told us the story tears silently streamed down her face, while some of her small children sat quietly at her feet. As our funds were low we could only help to repair her house with some thatch and buy her a fishing net so she could try and feed her children.

After a couple more very hot and insect filled nights we arose on Thursday to get ready for the first clinic upon the new facility. We were all busy preparing the final touches and setting up for the medical team. The team arrived around 8:00 am and immediately started bringing on board medicine, etc. The people from the area had started arriving about 7:00 am and sat patiently waiting. It took the team about 10 hours to get to the clinic by bus, motorcycle, small boat and larger boat, they are truly dedicated and committed people. The registrar took the patients family information and then sent them on to the nurse who did an initial examination of vitals and listened to their presenting issues, if warranted they then moved on to Dr. Sombun or to Mum, the midwife.
After the patients were examined the nurse/midwife dispensed the needed medication. All morning we watched the people come and go, all very grateful to have this clinic and free health care. Chatting with the patients as they waited they told us of their health struggles and how much the TLC meant to them and to their children. As one woman said “before The Lake Clinic when we get sick we die, now we have a chance”. We were really impressed with the organisation, empathy and professional service the team provides to this community. Sitting amongst the crying babies, elderly women and others we could feel both their concern and relief. Although there are many hardships here we still had some good laughs with those waiting. Having a private examination room gives both dignity and privacy for the patients. TLC also plans to vaccinate for TB, measles and implement a mothers club to improve the health of infants and children.

Lack of clean water is a significant issue in this area as there are no wells or water filters. One man found one of our empty water bottles on the deck and quickly took it put it in the river and filled it with the turbid and dark looking water for his small child. The medical staff explained how this is what is making his son sick. TLC plans to bring health education to the people here now that they have the mobile clinic.

As we were now very pressed for time we had to leave in the afternoon. We were disappointed we could not travel further up river with the team to see the other villages they serve so we decided to take a boat to the nearest city and then go on to our next destination, Stung Treng , where we would visit our other projects . Traveling this way would give us the opportunity to see the other six villages that The Lake Clinic and the mobile floating clinic would assist. On this journey we had two Board members with us and we want to thank Robyn Kemp and Rita Douglas for taking the time to come here from Canada to see and support the projects that K.I.D.S. is involved with.
The Lake Clinic brings health care and hope to people living in these forsaken and forgotten communities. Compassionate Eye, in partnership with K.I.D.S., has been able to provide this admirable and dedicated team of people a comfortable, clean and safe place to live while delivering quality health care and education to these isolated communities.
We thank Compassionate Eye for believing in and supporting this project; as they say on their website: "one day, one world, one goal", we thank our donors for continuing to support K.I.D.S. "to create better futures for children and families" and we especially thank the The Lake Clinic for their commitment to "serving the underserved".

And TLC would like to thank our IMPACT-UK friends along with Rick, Adrianne, Rita, Robyn and everyone who contributes to KIDS and Compassionate Eye for making this possible.
5 March 2012