A belated paying of respects

Golly, where has the time gone and what has happened to the planet in the last six months? I have plenty to share, it’s been a very eventful and successful 6 months for Flying Fox Fabrics but first I need to get something off my chest (actually, my heart).

Goodbye Mrs Sokha

Mrs Sokha (left) in 2015 with handprinted fabric designed by Selina Nadjowh from Injalak Arts during a photoshoot for the Cross-Cultural Collaboration Project I initiated and coordinated for them from 2013-19. Photo: Mark Roy

My last post was just after coming home from Cambodia. I had every intention of writing more regularly but then received the news from Mrs Thanan that one of her staff, Mrs Sokha, had passed away. When I visited the Kravan House workshop she was upstairs having just come back from the doctors. She’d had a lump in her breast but been afraid of a diagnosis so had delayed going to have it investigated but had become increasingly unwell. Mrs Thanan had been urging her to go but she’d been reluctant and kept putting it off. That day Thanan asked me if I wanted her to come down to see me and of course I said ‘no, please let her rest’. The workshop is in the bottom floor of a classic Cambodian masonry terrace house and some of the team live upstairs. It played on my mind that she was sick and I had a terrible sense of foreboding.

I will not start a long rave here bout the appalling lack of quality healthcare in Cambodia and the number of Khmer people in my life who have gone to bogus doctors/pharmacists for medical advice and the general lack of understanding of fundamental health issues and preventative health. But it’s important to at least give a little context as I have had more than enough firsthand experience. Exploitation (by pseudo health professionals) is rife and anyone who has lived in Cambodia will tell you that the standard hospital treatment for any and everything is an intravenous saline drip and an obligatory US$25- $50 overnight stay fee. I have taken to asking people about their prescribed medication and then googling it, more often that not it is vitamins or something completely inappropriate. It is truly shocking when I grew up in the incredibly well supported (but increasingly strained) public health system in Australia post Medicare. To say it has been confronting to live in Cambodia is an understatement.

The news really rocked me for a long time and I didn’t know how or whether to share it. I was aware the Kravan House team, which is more like an extended family was devastated and Mrs Thanan was in deep grief. I really want to share light and love and good news stories with you all. Last year was a very difficult one for me too and  so I chose to write nothing rather than publicise my grief. Now I am stronger and want to share with you in Thanan’s own (uniquely Camb-lish) words the story.

Messenger chat with Mrs Thanan Hok August 2019

Vale Mrs Sokha, may your daughter carry forth your kind heart and strong spirit. You are missed. Sending so much love to the team at Kravan House (who I have visited since – most recently in February 2020, just before the borders started closing).

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