In a hall within the Nikrot One Kol Toteung Pagoda, a group of individuals oversaw a recent event. The backdrop displayed a design featuring a heart symbol with a red dot beneath it, alongside the phrase “Japan Heart”.
The audience remained relatively modest, comprising only a few dozen participants.
Nevertheless, the importance of the gathering did not hinge on the quantity of attendees, but rather on the message they sought to convey.
The event’s was organised to share the declaration that Japan Heart, a volunteer-based international health care organisation, intends to establish a new children’s hospital, named the Asia Children’s Medical Centre, as part of a 2025 project in Takhmao, Kandal province.
“The hospital will specialise in paediatric care, with a focus on surgery and the provision of advanced treatments. We are committed to assisting all individuals, without regard to their ethnicity or country of origin,” stated Maiko Kojiro, a doctor who specialises in infectious diseases, as she announced the hospital project over the weekend.
Kojiro has been working in Cambodia since 2016 and serves as the medical director at Japan Heart Children’s Medical Centre within the Ponhea Leu Referral Hospital in Kandal province.
The new hospital will feature a medical facility with 200 beds. Its primary mission is to offer services primarily for treating children’s ailments, with a specific emphasis on paediatric cancer, in an effort to lower child mortality rates.
Paediatric cancer is a disease that, with appropriate treatment, can achieve a survival rate of up to 80 per cent, although this is influenced by several factors.
These factors include the proficiency of the medical team, the availability and affordability of medication, and the accessibility of radiation therapy.
The duration of treatment can vary widely, ranging from several months to over a year, according to Kojiro.
“In less developed countries, providing adequate treatment for paediatric cancer can be particularly challenging. Unfortunately, in Cambodia, many paediatric cancer patients lose their lives due to limited access to proper medical care and treatment,” said Kojiro.
The goal of establishing the hospital is to save lives without any form of discrimination.
She said that the strategic location of the hospital would include convenient infrastructure and transportation options for patients, and this would also facilitate the installation of medical equipment and tools, allowing the medical team to deliver advanced medical care effectively.
Additionally, there are plans to offer training to local healthcare professionals.
“In total, we need approximately $7 million for the construction of the building. We have launched a crowd funding campaign in Japan, and so far, we have raised about $700,000,” said Yoko Fujita, communications officer at Japan Heart.
In order to commence construction, ideally around April next year, Japan Heart seeks support from the community, as well as from local organisations and companies.
“At the moment, however, we don’t have a set goal for fundraising in Cambodia. We’re more focused on raising awareness about Japan Heart and our work among the Cambodian people,” Fujita told The Post.
She explained that they have started the process of seeking financial support for the hospital project through social media channels. They have also conveyed their gratitude for every contribution, regardless of its size.
“Our goal is not only to build the new hospital, but to be able to provide free treatment to many more children suffering from cancer and other serious illness, and save as many lives as possible. So we’d like to ask for generous support from Cambodian people,” she says.
The announcement of the project was overseen by the venerable Kou Sopheap, the chief monk of Nikrot One Kol Toteung Pagoda.
Since witnessing the care given to his nephew by the organisation’s doctors, he has championed Japan Heart, consistently encouraging individuals to support their cause.
“I am delighted that they are opening another facility in Takhmao, as it is conveniently located for the residents of the area. I hope the mission to establish a Japan Heart hospital for children with cancer will greatly benefit the people, especially Cambodian children,” he said.
Japan Heart has been delivering services in the country since 2009, with a focus on catering to economically disadvantaged patients from areas with limited healthcare access.
In 2016, it established a hospital on the premises of the Ponhea Leu District Referral Hospital, in the northern part of Kandal province.
In August 2018, the organisation expanded its ward and began providing treatment for paediatric cancer.
However, they initially faced challenges, including insufficient equipment, a lack of essential medicine, and limited access to medical technology.
Collaboration with medical teams from both Cambodia and Japan, including the University of Japan, has played a vital role in enhancing paediatric healthcare across the nation.
Over the last six years, the organisation’s initiatives have expanded, with over 100 paediatric patients receiving treatment annually, and more than half of them successfully overcoming their battle with cancer.
One of them, Srey Pich, a 13-year-old seventh-grader who underwent cancer treatment at the age of eight, shared her memory of her medical journey.
She remembered experiencing abdominal pain and being initially admitted to Kantha Bopha Hospital, before being transferred to the Japan Heart Children’s Medical Centre.
“The aspects of my cancer treatment that stand out the most to me are chemotherapy and surgery,” said the young girl, who aspires to one day become a doctor.
“I remember that during chemotherapy, I felt nauseous constantly, and I was scared when I had to undergo surgery,” she added.
“While the new hospital will be situated in Cambodia, our mission extends beyond its borders. We aspire to offer treatment to children from Laos and Myanmar who are suffering and seeking medical care. Additionally, we are committed to the development and training of healthcare professionals to ensure the sustainability of our efforts,” said Kojiro.
Keisuke Honda, the former general manager of Cambodia National Football, has become the project’s ambassador.
“I have seen many children living in poverty in Cambodia. They are unable to access hospitals even when they are afflicted by life-threatening conditions, a situation not uncommon in developing nations,” he said.
The Japan Heart Organisation has been able to function due to the donations and goodwill from the people of both Japan and Cambodia.
Kojiro pledged commitment to making this hospital project a reality and expressed gratitude to all of the benefactors who have supported Japan Heart’s mission.