Taking a risk can be scary. What am I going to see, how will I feel, who will I be perceived as? So many things run through my mind before I usually make a decision. I analyze every possible outcome, both positive and negative, and come up with the best solution.
This particular circumstance was different. I found myself saying, “Yes, of course” before even knowing what I was signing up for. At dinner, my dad had talked about a conversation he had earlier that day with a friend, Dr. Zachary.
The next day, I found myself writing a letter to my school explaining that I would be missing a week of school to travel to Cambodia with a dental team, Kids International Dental Services. In my heart I knew this was something I had to do and was so thankful that this trip came our way. After receiving the “Okay” from my teachers, reality hit. What was I getting into?
February came and the countdown began. Our bags were packed and my dad and I found ourselves in the car, as my mom was driving us to the airport. The journey had begun; we were soon going to enter Cambodia and leave all of our worries in America.
Our first day was dedicated to exploring the city of Phnom Penh. After walking through the city, my friend Elia (who joined us for the trip) and I came up with these conclusions. We promised each other to never cross a street without one another – it was a bit like New York City minus the lane dividers and light signals. We also concluded that the people of Cambodia were beyond genuine, grateful, and appreciative.
That night I was lying in bed thinking, “What will tomorrow be like?” The next morning, our services would be put into action. The dentists would work together for the common good of the kids, while the non-dental team calmed nerves, educated, and nurtured each child. The first day alone taught me a valuable lesson – just go for it. I totally immersed myself in the day; I never looked at the difference in language as a barrier and realized that a smile, laughter, & love are universal gestures to all.
Everyday revolved around one common goal, the children and their health, while each day brought me new insights. I found it amazing to watch how in sync our team worked, each personality complimented one another and allowed our diverse group to work as one seamless garment.
I had the pleasure of seeing almost every child who visited our make shift clinics. Throughout the week we saw a little over 1,000 kids; 1,000 smiles, 1,000 hearts, 1,000 worried faces, & 1,000 possible tears. I was dedicated to each child by making a connection based on trust and attempting to say phrases in Khmer (which got them to laugh because my accent was horrendous!). Everyday I looked forward to the humbling experiences of grabbing a coloring sheet and begin coloring with a child, or watching a brother & sister wait for one another as each see a dentist. Witnessing them comfort each other in post-op, reminded me of the importance of family. Knowing these kids under the age of 10 knew this important message, hit home for me. Throughout the trip I could not get over how big their hearts are, full of love, although they’ve gone through so much hardship.
As I reflect on this opportunity, I’m thankful that I didn’t overanalyze my options. I would have missed a trip, which brought clarity and balance back into my life. Going on a trip similar to this teaches us an important lesson. The things you see, the people you meet and their stories you hear, along with pictures you take, are lessons & memories you must share with peers back in your hometown.
Thank you to Bob and Purobi for welcoming us into your family, thank you to our team who works year-round to make these two weeks a success, thank you Daddy for sharing such a transformative trip, and most importantly, thank you to the children of Cambodia for showing me love in it’s simplest form. I love you all!
~ Rebecca, San Carlos, California