Kenro Izu didn’t know how to run a hospital. He didn’t have a medical degree. But he knew he had to stop the horrible tragedy that he had just witnessed from ever happening again.
“It was a decisive moment when I saw a young girl die in front of my eyes in the regional hospital,” Kenro said.
A professional photographer, Kenro got his first glimpse at the appalling lack of pediatric healthcare in Cambodia after meeting sick and disabled children at a photo shoot. Appalled by their untreated condition, he decided to investigate, and began visiting local hospitals and medical clinics.
During a visit to one of the hospitals, he started talking with a father who was sitting by the bedside of his sick daughter, a girl about the same age as Kenro’s daughter.
The father explained that he didn’t have enough money to pay for her treatment (about $2), so the doctors had refused to help her. While Kenro was talking to the father about his tragic situation, the young girl passed away.
“Her life was cut short because her parents could not pay $2 to the hospital and the doctors of the hospital left the girl alone without providing any treatment,” Kenro said.
Determined to stop this tragedy from reoccurring, Kenro undertook a campaign to build a pediatric teaching hospital in Cambodia with international standards. In 1999, the Angkor Hospital for Children opened its doors. Subsequently, satellite clinics were opened as a model of locally sustainable health care.
“The goal is that all children who seek help will receive high-quality and compassionate care,” Kenro said. “It’s as I always tell our staff, ‘Treat every patient as if they were your own child.'”
Since then, FWAB has treated over 1.2 million children and provided advanced training to thousands of health workers. Today, construction is underway for a similar state-of-the-art pediatric teaching hospital in Laos, the Lao Friends Hospital for Children (LFHC), scheduled to open in early 2015. Funding from World of Children will help FWAB construct and equip this new hospital in Laos.
“Our goal is to build LFHC as the major education center of pediatric health care and create a positive impact on health care for the whole country,” Kenro said.
Kenro took the time to speak with us about his inspiration, motivation and how our funding will help him impact thousands more children.
1. What would you say is the number one need for children in Cambodia?
Access to quality health care. A healthy child is an active child, ready to learn and grow. When health is affected it starts a downward spiral where the child stops going to school, stops being active and becomes progressively worse.
2. How has medical care improved for children in Cambodia since you first started FWAB?
In Siem Reap, where Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) is located, there are substantial improvements in health care.
But outside the few major cities medical care is still basic. AHC has been working to improve conditions by providing advanced training to healthcare workers from not only other cities, but also regional hospitals and health centers, helping to create a better health care system throughout Cambodia.
3. Do you have any advice for other individuals who want to start programs for vulnerable children?
It takes determination and a firm commitment of at least 10 years for any program to be successful. It takes that long to provide proper training to the local community to ensure that the program will be sustainable, even after the program period is over.
4. Where do you see Friends Without A Border going in the next 10 years?
Friends’ main focus over the next 10 years will be on Lao Friends Hospital for Children and developing programs of Treatment + Education + Prevention, and to create a center for teaching pediatrics in Lao PDR. Our goal is to build LFHC as the major education center of pediatric health care and create a positive impact on health care for the whole country.
With LFHC, the goal is that all children who seek help will receive high-quality and compassionate care…it’s as I always tell our staff, “Treat every patient as if they were your own child.”
5. How will World of Children help you to expand your program?
It will help us spread awareness and put a spotlight on an area that has been much neglected. Very little attention has been paid to Southeast Asia, Laos and Cambodia especially. This is simply due to the fact that many people are in the dark about the struggles those communities face, and how desperate the health situation is. Having the backing of such a respected organization as World of Children will help us reach a wider audience and will bring more weight to the situation.
On November 6, Kenro Izu will be honored in New York City with the 2014 World of Children Health Award at our annual Awards Ceremony along with 5 other extraordinary changemakers for children. Learn more >>