Dear readers and peekers,
I post here a heart-wrenching story about a Cambodian boy, whose brilliance, fighting spirit and resilience humbled me, and put me to shame. Drop me comments if you'd like to contribute. It doesn't matter if it's only RM 10, or RM 100. Every cent will mean a lot to this boy, and we could at least help ease his burden.
Read the story, and if you feel what my sisters and I feel, I'm sure you'll want to contribute. At least we can help him buy some reference books. Btw, this Atiqah is my 4th sister, whom I often fondly call Tiq Toq.
Hi everyone. My name is Atiqah, and I am here to write about a friend I met during a relief mission in Cambodia. His name is Ghazali; Roly to his friends. He just passed his fourth year in medical school, so he has three more years to go. When I first met him, I have no idea that he was going to be one of those few people who leave footsteps on your heart. He joined us on the mission for merely nine days, and already he left gaping holes in the hearts of his Malaysian teammates.
Everyone saw how good he was since the very first day he worked with us. It doesn’t matter that I did not understand a word of what he was saying to the villagers, but I felt his empathy, I felt how genuine he was to his patients. I remember thinking ‘Wow. He’s exactly what Cambodia needs right now,’ when I sat beside him while he was taking the history of a patient.
He seemed like a guy all the ladies would fall for; tall, funny, responsible, smart. Looking at him, one can never have guessed what he went through to be in the place that he is now. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a story about Roly.
Roly had always felt that something was wrong with the way the people in his village think. Since he was really young, he had already felt the thirst for knowledge. He realized its importance and its ability to help alleviate the poverty that was gripping the fishing village he was living in. When he finished primary school, his parents confronted him. They told him to stop studying, that they do not approve of him going to school, that he should start earning money for the family. He begged and begged for them to give him a few more years, and finally they relented and gave him permission to attend secondary school. There is no secondary school in his village. Roly, at the age of 13, cycled 20 kilometres to his school. He studied during weekdays, and he went fishing with his father during weekends. This, was how Roly spent his teenage years; whenever he wasn’t studying hard, he was working hard.
Excellent academic achievements led him to a scholarship from the Cambodian Government to study medicine in USS. Roly was delighted to move to Phnom Penh and prove to everyone that even a boy from a poor fishing village can become a doctor. Thus began his journey as the first person of his village to ever qualify into a university.
His scholarship only covered tuition fees. Roly needed money for food, accommodation, and books. His parents can only afford to provide half of these expenses, leaving him with no chance but work two jobs during his first year. He distributed newspapers in the morning before going to class, and he worked the evening shift as a waiter. He did all this while being a medical student. It felt suffocating, hearing all of this. All I ever do is complain how tired and busy I am, being a medical student. I do not even have a single job.
Roly didn’t have much time to study, so sleep is a luxury to him. ‘Sometimes I feel so tired, I just want to go back home,’ he said. But he knew that that wasn’t an option. He needs to set an example, he needs to change the future of his people. He said he wants to return to his village one day, and work there, as a doctor. He wants the young ones to see that they can be more than just a fisherman.
Despite working two jobs, the pay was measly, so buying books was never an item on his list. The library was his Mecca, but he wasn’t allowed to take the books home with him. He spent long nights studying in the library. He photocopied important bits, as this was the only way he could take them home.
Alhamdulillah, he later found out about the Islamic Medical Associations of Cambodia (IMAC), who referred him to Islamic Development Bank (IDB). IDB then provided him a small sum of money every month. This helped a lot, but when he got into third year, the situation became more pressing for Roly. More books are needed- having to study at the library and keeping with its opening hours became a huge disadvantage for him, as he needed more time to translate the English references. Most of his classes in USS are taught in French. ‘Sometimes I don’t sleep’.
Despite all this, Roly excels in his studies. He leads study groups and he teaches anatomy and biology part time at a private school. He now spends his nights studying for his hospital rotations and preparing lessons for the classes he teaches. How he manages to cope is really beyond me.
After going through all this hardship along the course of the academic year, he came to join the mission right after his final exams. His passion amazes each and every one of us.
My sister and I want to set up an informal scholarship for him to survive the final three years of university; for him to buy reference books, to buy things for himself, to support him so he won’t have to work amidst the insanity that is the medical school. If there is a college student in this world who deserves all of this… it would be Roly.
Now the question is; are you in this with us?
3rd Year Medical student,
University College Cork, Ireland.
University College Cork, Ireland.