No surprise, CCF has a wonderful maternity program. It is run out of a tiny office at the Community Center. There are three or more lovely Cambodian staff members. Young and petite ladies who you can imagine in the US would be shopping at Nordstroms for the latest fashions but here in Cambodia they are highly trained young women with a purpose.
The Maternity Program is open to any woman in the community. Here they can come for checkups, medical care, nutritional advice and supplements and the guarantee that they and their baby will be cared for before, during and after the delivery.
Since its opening in 2009, the Maternity Program has reduced the maternity mortality rate from 8% to O%. And GE has just donated a portable ultra sound machine so CCF can continue to assure the health and care of mother and child during pregnancy.
The big event this week was that baby number 400 was being born – The 400th baby to be escorted into the world through CCF’s program.
Someone thought it would be a great idea to celebrate this milestone with flowers and fruit for the mom while she is in hospital for the 5 days required to ensure a complete and healthy recovery.
And the even bigger surprise – a house makeover! As I described in my last blog (Ruffled Pillows) these so called homes are in dire shape. Here is the excerpt from that blog.
I am working more in what we call the village. Not a village by any stretch of the Western imagination. More of twisted trail of shanties and shacks created out of and propped up by the most bizarre combination of materials wedged together to maximize protection from the rain and built upon a landfill of trash that was the former dump.
…Here the interiors are simply a platform built up about 12 inches to withstand the flooding that happens with every rain storm. This platform serves as the floor, the living room, the dining room and bedroom.
Every house has a mosquito net and in the corner a section for cooking.
And that is it. Clothes are thrown over a wire or rope strung across the corner. If folks are really lucky they have nails pounded into their paper thin walls and use these as clothes hooks. There is a thin well-worn woven mat for sleeping that they spread across the open planks of the platform at night. One or two cooking pots are often stored outside which basically means they lay in the muddy dirt until it is time to cook. And more often than not there is trash stacked here and there.
At first glance it seems impossible to impact these dismal and desperate shacks. It occurs to this naïve Westerner that nothing short of bulldozing the structure and starting from scratch could really have an impact.
But the CCF Clean Up and Remodeling Team, on the other hand, seem to know exactly what to do.
As I visited and met the neighbors and the new dad I saw our team go into action. Within hours the initial cleanup was complete, trash was hauled away, walls were measured and we were on the way to the hardware store to get new plywood to cover the walls. No fancy pickup trucks but riding on the back of motos with a helpful neighbor holding on with one hand and dragging his cart behind as we twisted our way down the narrow streets and onto the main road merging into a mass of traffic.
Now, let me explain Cambodian plywood. In the US plywood is rather thick and sturdy. Here it is about 1/32th of an inch thick if that. More like a veneer really. Nothing sturdy enough to add support to the structure but enough to cover the makeshift walls with something solid instead of the dozens of little boards wedged together.
I make the executive decision and we splurge and go with the more expensive white plywood because we think it will help to brighten up the space.
We load the generous neighbor’s trash cart full of plywood, a new mattress, pillows with adorable baby bear print fabric, new mosquito net and stacks of plastic shelves. And he walks back to the village dragging it behind him while we race ahead to get nails and back to the house.
Back at the house the ladies from the neighborhood pitch in helping to wash and arrange the shelves while the guys measure and saw, pound nails and install the plywood.
On a side note, we notice one of the little neighbor kids has a swollen neck and a rash so we make arrangements for her mom to take her daughter to the clinic the next day.
(At CCF you never just do one thing. Whatever you are doing, you are juggling at least one or two other tasks simultaneously. And looking out for kids and folks in need of medical care is always top of mind.)
Meanwhile, the father makes a special request asking for electricity to their humble dwelling. No problem, CCF staff is out stringing wire the next day.
In the landfill there are no permits needed and no building inspectors so it was all completed in a matter of a couple of days.
We topped it all off with a radiant picture taken of the mother and baby in hospital and a huge basket of baby goodies that are a regular gift from the Maternity Program.
The mother was demure, delighted and surprised. The father was beaming to have such a bright, clean and healthy space for his wife and new born son to come home to.
The father named his new son Samnang which means lucky. The father said: “I named the baby like this since he is very lucky to get special support from CCF”.
For more information about the Maternity Program and the incredible story of how it got started and Lucky’s first video visit the Cambodian Children’s Fund website.