Q&A: St John Volunteer brings essential First Aid training to Cambodia

Written by | 23 Jul 2019

Earlier this year, one of our very own volunteers, Milê Glamcevski, embarked on an expedition of a lifetime and headed to Cambodia to teach vital lifesaving first aid.

Milê Glamcevski has been a Victorian St John Volunteer for almost four years, and throughout this time has dedicated countless hours to the community.

Over the last 25 years Milê Glamcevski has worked in Cambodia and throughout this time has noticed many deficits. One of these being the lack of knowledge and first aid training throughout Cambodian communities.

For several years, Cambodia has been one of the most underprivileged countries on the globe, the average salary being about $1,400 annually per capita (average daily salary $4). Although not known, it’s estimated that less than 1% of the population have any first aid training. As people are more focused on immediate daily survival in Cambodia, first aid training is considered a luxury.

After understanding this need, Milê decided to act and travel to Cambodia to teach vital lifesaving first aid skills to selected Cambodians and organisations.

Recently, we spoke with Milê Glamcevski about his time in Cambodia………

Q: What was the pivotal moment that prompted you to travel to Cambodia to teach first aid?

The moment that really pushed me to act was when a friend was relaying a story of another Cambodian friend who had collapsed at a party and fell on his back. At this time, my friend vomited and started choking, resulting in him, unfortunately, passing away. Now, for me hearing this, I was shocked, firstly because my friend has passed and secondly, because my friend could still be alive if someone was first aid trained and knew how to put my him into the recovery position.

Q: What was the age group that you delivered first aid training to?

Throughout the planning stage of this trip to Cambodia, I really wanted to deliver first aid training to a true representation of the Cambodian community. With this in mind, it was important for me to select a vast and representative group of people of all ages. The age group ended up spanning from 17-70 years, with the majority being in the 20-35-year band.

What first aid training did you deliver in Cambodia?

The first aid training delivered was a modified Provide First Aid course, so it was one day that we went through DRSABC and wound management including bandages and slings. It was very much focused around the DRSABC, people being able to clear airways, put people into the recovery position and manage a minimum of 2 minutes of effective CPR. I worked with the St John Ambulance Victoria training team to modify the course to make it more appropriate for the audience.

How did you modify the PFA Course to suit the Cambodian audience?

Firstly, we stripped away teaching the D in the DRSABCD, as defibrillators are not commonly accessible to the Cambodian community. Secondly, instead of using a triangle bandage when teaching wound control, we replaced this with a krama – a sturdy traditional garment carried by Cambodians which has similar dimensions to a triangular bandage.

What did this expedition teach you about first aid training and knowledge in third world countries?

What it taught me was that a lot of people were very willing to help, however, more people were scared to do something wrong than doing something. So, what it taught me was that by providing first aid training and knowledge, people felt that it gave them permission to help someone in need. Additionally, it taught me that first aid is what we Australians would consider general knowledge, however, in third world countries this knowledge is completely foreign and there’s still a lot more work to be done to ensure that fewer situations similar to what happened to my friend occur.

Ultimately, accidents at home, in public or in the workplace, will happen. The key is to put measures in place to prevent or minimise the damage. First aid is a proven safe, effective, low-cost method of preventing injury and saving lives. Considering the fact that first aid knowledge and training is nonexistent in third world countries, it’s becoming increasingly important for more initiatives similar to Milê’s.