When you arrive in Phnom Penh as a tourist, you generally see the S-21 prison and the killing fields, and while this is difficult to swallow, there is something that you to make a difference.
We came to the capital after visiting Koh Rong Samloem Island, which was so wonderful that we wanted to do something good while in Cambodia.
My boyfriend often gives blood at home and when we read about donating in Phnom Penh in the Lonely Planet, we realised that there was no reason not to do it while on the road.
If you are donating blood abroad, make sure to go to a recommended hospital for your own safety and to make sure your donation goes to someone in need. There is a black market for blood, much as there is for organs.
There is a taboo around giving blood in Cambodia as well blood-born diseases so it’s a great thing to do. That’s not to say that Cambodian people don’t give blood as we were the only foreigners there that day. The blood banks are in a much better place now, as the situation was desperate at one point due to the political problems in the country.
We got a Grab taxi to the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh which is a few miles from the centre and the blood donation centre is easy to find. You can also go to the Kantha Bopha hospital in PP. If you’re in Siem Reap visiting Angkor Wat, then Angkor Children’s Hospital is a good place to go.
The process is much the same wherever you go but we filled out a form with our details, had a short assessment interview, had our blood tested using the finger prick test and then went on the bed to donate. You squeeze a ball to get your blood flowing and it’s a great distraction from the needle in your arm.
It was a really fast process, it genuinely didn’t hurt at all and you’ll be in and out in an hour, but you may want to rest afterwards.
I have tiny veins and I couldn’t actually donate in the UK because of it, however, they got the full 350ml off me here which was great.
I did have anxiety about giving blood and I was worried that they would turn me away like on the UK, so I was so happy to finally get to do it.
One wonderful thing about giving blood is that you get a free meal! It helps your body to recover when you eat and drink and we got a whole box of food. It’s important to drink lots of water as giving blood is the equivalent of doing around half an hour of exercise.
I did actually feel a bit faint so they put me on a bed with my legs up and fed me calcium, Fanta and gave me smelling salts to sniff. I soon felt a lot better so I think part of it was anxiety.
To top it all off, we even got a free t-shirt! I wouldn’t normally accept it, but I am running out of clothes and I’m happy to advertise a good cause.
I’m really glad that I gave blood while in Cambodia as it felt good and I conquered a fear! It’s the perfect way to give back to Southeast Asia for all the great experiences we’ve had here.
Have you given blood whilst travelling the world? Share your stories with us in the comments below!
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