De Anza nursing graduates give aid in Cambodia


De Anza nursing graduate Emily Miller makes a peace sign and poses with kids. Source: Emily Miller

Ethan Bennett, Managing Editor

Flying from California to Cambodia, De Anza College nursing graduate Emily Miller had no idea what she was about to face.

She joined the Jordan International Aid mission in January along with several other volunteers to help treat adults and children in rural villages in Cambodia.

What she saw there shocked her. Little to no clean drinking water. Families struggling with poverty. Malnourished children. A stark difference from her place of comfort and familiarity.

“It was a culture shock,” Miller said. “We had to soak up all the knowledge about this place.”

But soon the work began.

Miller and the volunteers travelled to four villages and treated over 400 patients, most of them children.

They provided clean water filters that will last for five years to each family and taught them how to properly use them for drinking water.

Dentist and doctor assessments were performed on adults and given daily supplements.

Children participated in games and arts and crafts activities prepared by the volunteers.

Pediatric nurses checked their health and also taught them the basics of washing hands and brushing teeth.

Miller recalled how the children had fun learning how to brush their teeth.

“They were playing around with the toothbrushes and it was a really rewarding experience educating patients on their treatment,” she said.

Portia Whiteted, another De Anza nursing graduate and volunteer, said experienced nurses travelled along with the volunteers.

“There were so many experienced nurses,” she said. “There was a pediatrician there helping me with the children and she taught me how to diagnose the kids. It’s one of my goals to become a pediatrician so it was very encouraging to have experienced people help us.”

Whiteted recalled how helping there has a long-term effect on the people they treated.

“When you’re there, you don’t see an immediate impact yet,” Whiteted said. “We helped out for only a few days but the doctors and nurses there have treated these families every week.”

She recounted the story told to her of a two-year-old baby suffering with a heart defect.

“She was two years old but she looked like she was just 10 months old. Her family couldn’t pay for the surgery so they approached doctors from the mission and asked to help them out,” she said.

A surgery was performed shortly after and when Whiteted visited the villages, the doctors pointed her out.

“The things we do here have long-term effects and seeing those effects is so exciting,” she said.

As the mission came to a close, Miller reflected on the experiences and lessons she learned treating people who don’t have access to basic medicine or treatments.

“I learned that you really cannot judge a book by its cover,” she said. “As a nurse, you don’t know what they’ve been through and you need to give them the care that they deserve.”