The most amazing experience of my life…

Presentation speech by Andrea Wettstein at Taste the World Calgary April 24, 2013.

After years of hearing countless stories from my parents and John and Nina about the work being done in Southeast Asia, I was keen to witness things for myself. Last winter, I was able to take an extended vacation from work to visit Burma and Cambodia.

This was by far the most amazing experience of my life. It’s hard to know where to begin to really describe it, but I think what really stuck with me was the positive, resilient nature of the people there, and their ability to be resourceful with what they have.

Andrea observing outreach paramedic at workThe first place I visited in Burma was a malaria and HIV clinic in a village outside of Yangon. It was there I met Dr. Frank and Dr Nini. It was early morning when we arrived, but already there were close to 50 people waiting on re-purposed church pews to see the Doctors. As we all know, HIV is a major issue in SE Asia. This clinic was taking a preventative approach to HIV – they were testing pregnant mothers, educating them, and providing support. I appreciated the sensitive nature these doctors took in dealing with HIV patients. They allowed them privacy when visiting the clinic, facilitated support groups, and connected them with a psychologist in order to deal with mental aspects of being HIV positive. To me, this level of support and education was incredible. It was obvious what a massive effect this clinic was having on the local people, and their future.

Andre with Sue on outreach in CambodiaFrom Yangon, I travelled to Siem Reap, where I volunteered at the Angkor Hospital for Children. Though Angkor Wat is considered Siem Reap’s main attraction, the Angkor Hospital for Children is its heart & soul. The number of children and families this hospital helps is astounding.

I have so many stories to share from AHC, but I’ll choose one. We had the opportunity to visit the hospital late one night, around 11 pm. The grounds – once crowded with children and families waiting for the doctors – were now covered in tarps. There must have been at least 100. Underneath each tarp, was a sleeping family – children, parents, uncles, aunts – all fast asleep under the open sky, awaiting the next morning where they could line up to see a doctor. It struck me then how far these families had journeyed to seek medical help, and how little they had. It also struck me that although there were hundreds of people here, the grounds were silent.

Inside the hospital was a different story. Although it was nighttime, the doctors were bustling and busy. We entered the ICU, where there were four people – one Cambodian doctor, a doctor in training and three Cambodian nurses – intently examining a premature baby. These staff were completely engaged in their job, surrounded in the ICU by the tiny lives they were closely monitoring, and ultimately saving. I learned at that point that while AHC provides healthcare to poverty stricken Cambodian children, it also provides education and career opportunities to countless Cambodian people.

Daily medical rounds

I could go on and on about the education AHC provides, the garden that single handedly nourishes the hospital, cooking classes that teach parents how to keep their babies nourished, the before and after photos of children who enter AHC malnourished and leave healthy, the satellite hospital that helps families in hundreds of surrounding villages, the trips I accompanied AHC staff on, to follow up with former patients … I think it’s important to say that through this trip I learned first-hand, that contributions to MAM or AHC directly impact people. A contribution will save lives. It will provide parents the education to save the lives of their children, and it will give a Cambodian doctor or nurse a career, so they can save hundreds of future lives.

6º Andrea Wettstein
Composer & Voice Director