As always, volunteers paid for their own travel and accommodation. There are also benefits from staying at Dreams Hotel with Mrs. Dung being able and willing to facilitate many of our needs, such as help with translation, printing, organizing tradespeople and transportation. She has been a great help with our understanding of the Vietnamese viewpoint on many issues and has helped us negotiate our way through their bureaucratic system.
Mark Ham and Ingo Mitschke were engaged to record the project. Each member also took opportunistic photographs. Medical Photography was done by the screening team as an aide memoir for surgery and to communicate with the surgical team.
Michele Poppinghaus – Second Overall Coordinator, medical liaison, Medical supplies, Surgery
John Cassey –, Community projects
Maureen O’Neill Sales – Interpreters
Amelia Ham – Procurement and medical supplies
Narelle Cassey – education
Mark Ham – Photography
Ingo Mitschke - Photography
Maureen, relieving Narelle, undertook the task of recruiting and vetting interpreters, via email, skype and phone interviews (when possible) prior to our Journey. These connections were achieved after much negotiation and these students then altered their study timetables and work to facilitate us.
Prior interpreters, Chi Giao Nguyen and Hoi Miller, joined us for this year’s project.
At our first clinic we were presented to an English language student, and offered her services as an interpreter. This was logistically a problem: - She was the relative of a senior staff member; but we had promised the work to many other students. It was an awkward situation and had the impact of limiting numbers in the operating theatres. If the hospital had given us prior notice her presence could have been factored into our planning.
In 2012 we paid the interpreters for the first time. We offered $10 per ½ day. We have never had difficulty attracting volunteers but their financial difficulties often meant their attendance could be uncertain. Payment was highly effective in ensuring a steady commitment to the project.
There was some discussion among our team that the payment was too generous, it being well above usual Vietnamese rates. The concern was that it might then impact, negatively, on attitudes. It was felt that we are committed to this level of funding as a baseline from here on. The education group’s requirements were for a shorter session and the possibility of an hourly rate was discussed for 2013 in that group. Another consideration is that most Vietnamese professionals, with whom we deal, are all being paid (not by MESCH but by Vietnamese agencies or the government) so why not the interpreters?
Summary:-Payment made a big difference and the translators were more committed, especially with the education team as these times were more irregular.
Future trips:- we need to consider rates of pay; detailed explanations of our expectations of their duties. There was discussion about the differing commitments from the medical and educational interpreters.
Certificates were presented – a good idea. Warmly received
May use the same people next year if available
We discussed their abilities and our needs
Again we organised a meet and greet dinner on our first night in DaLat to interview the interpreters and discuss our project. We then evaluated their communication skills and Maureen created an initial roster based on their availability and our requirements.
Chi Giao Nguyen: This young man has been associated with our group since our last visit. He was extremely helpful in liaising with his university lecturers to find more students of English to assist with our expanding needs. He also organised items before our arrival e.g. mobile phone chips etc. Once we arrived in DaLat he was invaluable in smoothing the way between the many agencies and individuals with whom we had contact. On a day-to-day basis he was our main medical interpreter for the screening clinics and in the operating theatre. Over the two years it has been gratifying to see him maturing both as an individual and as an interpreter. Exposure to our project has enabled him to fast track his professional development. This is one spin off from our project, which we had only partially anticipated.
Hoi Miller, is a citizen of the USA, who returns for some months every year to be with family in the DaLat area. Her husband, a Vietnamese war veteran, accompanies her. Hoi is a warm, caring lady who gives tirelessly. Hoi has matured in the role, which she has often found ‘tricky’ – it is not just the words but also the concepts, which socially can be difficult to discuss for traditional Vietnamese people. She is willing to learn and in turn teaches us about her country its people and their attitudes.
Nhân (Lee) Thành Lê: Although this young man had fabulous English we were unable to use his services very often.
An Hanh Phuoc Nguyen: This young woman’s English is very good. An is very professional, sensitive and discrete. Her personal attributes suit our project aims. An treats everyone with courtesy and kindness no matter their background. An is a young woman with much personal integrity, we found that she will quietly and determinedly carry out small kindness whenever she sees a necessity. There can be a perception that her English is not strong, this is incorrect. An is softly spoken, so although she is sometimes more difficult to understand her comprehension and spoken language is well above average. We recommend her highly to any future employer. Her personal and professional qualities would be an asset to any employer and organisation.
Bảo Hoài Huỳnh: This young man was able to help us on several occasions. He was polite and courteous
Hien Thi Dieu Ngo: This young woman’s English was not as strong. Nevertheless she was a wonderful help on several occasions. She was sensitive and polite to our clients.
Huong H.Bkrong: Very polite young woman. Her English was sound and her manner very professional.
Khang Xuan Vo: Very helpful to the education team.
Khoa Văn TuấnLê: Once again a very polite young man. His English was not as strong but very keen and professional for the short time we were able to use his services.
Tram Thach Que (Rocky): Delightful young woman. Once again sensitive and professional to our clients no matter what their background. Her English was sound. And we can only hope we helped with her personal and professional development
Tuyên Van Chu: a very polite young man whose English skills were not as strong but who has a professional attitude and was still of help to us on the few occasions he assisted us. We hope next year, after his English studies have advanced, to utilize his skills more
Van Hong Le: This young woman is a very intelligent, conscious and warm-hearted individual. Her English is excellent – she has mastered many nuances and colloquial aspects of the language. Van was very professional and caring to our clients/patients. We utilized her time and skills a great deal. She was several times placed, unexpectedly, in the position of interpreting between our team and senior Vietnamese professionals and bureaucrats. Van found this intimidating, frightening and stimulating. We cannot overstate how she rose to the occasion – especially as she is so young and inexperienced with face-to-face interpreting. She was immensely proud of herself after emerging from the experience. For her this was invaluable experience for an individual who may ultimately choose this interpreting as her profession. Our project meant she extended herself personally and professionally.
Minh (Mike) Trin: This young man’s English skills, intelligence, professional manner and caring nature made him a pleasure to have as part of our team. Minh was conscientious, punctual and very obliging. When interpreting he was always sensitive to the message behind the language which made him discrete and careful with the feelings of others. Not just our team members but also of our clients/patients who were often the poor and/or the very young or disadvantaged. We are hoping to work with him again next year, unless he has secured a, fabulous job and he cannot be released.
We had contact, via past interpreters, with an English teacher from the University of DaLat. Mrs Chau, in turn, also promoted students who then applied for the MESCH job/experience. This new, but small, relationship to another Educational area was a bonus. Many of these students have been helping us for years but now the university is directly, if not formally, involved.
We need to evaluate their abilities and our needs to decide on our team for 2013.
The impact of this was to cause a problem with Vietnam Airlines perception that we were travelling as a group and calculation of allowances for excess baggage and discounted fares.
It is suggested that in 2013 we travel together to Vietnam as much as possible and then do any further holiday type travel at the end of the trip. This will facilitate our negotiations with Vietnam Airlines.
Flight bookings and payment with credit card is a problem with Vietnam Airlines as the holder of the credit card needs to be present at checking, definitely for local flights and possibly for international flights. John Cassey is meeting with Vietnam Airlines management to discuss 2013’s project and ways to ensure we receive assistance with baggage and ticketing. Customs documentation from Lam Dong Hospital relating to the incoming equipment was challenged this year at Saigon Airport, and John Cassey did not have the list of equipment with him. Dr Cuong was contacted and was able to talk to Customs to sort out the entry without duty being paid.;Milton and Maureen took 20 Kg extra educational equipment via Thailand, Mich brought a monitor and other equipment directly to Dreams Hotel. The bulk of equipment was carried by John Narelle Mark and Amelia travelling together. Less weight of materials was carried this year.
LDGH paediatric surgery, anaesthetics and nursing
Amelia, Amy, John, Maureen, Mich, Milton.
This year the Vietnamese staff allocated to MESCH were Dr Cuong and Dr Luyen – overall coordinator, physician , accompanied screening group to clinics, Sinh Le
Donations of equipment, including 2 refurbished anaesthetic monitors, transferred.
Hospital group used only 1 theatre this year to consolidate teaching. Performed 27 cases and another 18 had surgery by the local surgical team under indirect supervision. The majority of the supervision was with Dr Tam, a Vietnamese surgeon who has an interest in paediatric surgery. Problems dealt with included removing extra digits, hernias, removal of lumps and genital abnormalities (9 complex reconstructions). Anaesthetic training continues successfully and with great receptiveness. Theatre nurses very keen to exchange ideas and asked for a “presentation” on Australian nursing.
The local surgeons had a parallel theatre where 17 procedures were performed, including removing extra digits from 7 children. Their operating list was for older children with conditions that had previously been taught and with indirect supervision.
Postoperative ward rounds were emotional affairs, with parents and children supporting each other and very grateful for the expertise and care they received.
Primary Care Red Cross visits
Dr Hy remains very keen and has ongoing support from his superiors. Request for visits by other Australian surgeons.
Discussions were had with Dr Nga from Red Cross and Dr Hy from Lam Dong Hospital, re the acquisition refurbishment and transfer of the machines to Lm Dong Hospital and the subsequent training of anaesthetic and technical staff in relation to this project. The Red Cross has agreed to facilitate the project and take delivery of a container of the machines for MESCH.
We have obtained a sponsor – Scorpion Importers in Newcastle who have agreed to help with transport.
Mich Popinghaus will develop a document comtaining the serial numbers and details of all the machines we are sending to Vietnam.
We need a storage location for the machines waiting for transport.
Community medical group
Amy, Maureen, Milton
Assessment of 120 children in 3 regional hospitals for surgery
Teaching of “how to” for earache to selected “carers” at Cam Ly and Xuan Thao
Health checks on 300 children and blind adults in the facilities visited by the education team and, in conjunction with the Red Cross, other facilities as well. We were able to screen and organise dental care of many children during this years’ project.
This included general health checks, dental checks, opportunistic management of acute or chronic problems, and education of carers in the management of common conditions.
The initial task for this group was screening of the children preoperatively for our surgical team. Over 3 days, 120 children were screened in 3 hospitals. 2 days were spent in Lam Dong Hospital in DaLat and on the 3rd day we went to Lam Ha and Duc Truong hospitals.
The hospitals had organized us to screen children they had identified as possible candidates for surgery. The range of conditions included penile abnormalities, inguinal hernias, undescended testes, abnormal hands and feet, extra digits, lumps and bumps, weakness – hemiparesis, arthrogryposis, burns, fragile bones – osteogenesis imperfecta, abnormal kidneys, fistulas discharging infection, abnormal female genitals, rashes and concerns about growth and failure to thrive.
Out of this group we found 45 who could benefit from surgery and others who needed to be reviewed by our paediatric surgeon due to genital abnormalities or kidney problems.
1) The Pagoda Orphanage (run by Buddhist nuns) and provided health checks for 25 children. Problems encountered included acute infections, skin infections and cataracts in 2 nuns. Their dental care was good.
2) Xuan Thao kindergarten where health checks were performed on 35 children. We did dental screening to facilitate a visit from dental workers organized through Red Cross. We inspected their toilets that were malfunctioning and inadequate.
3) Don Bosco day school for street children and again did health checks and dental screening on 60 children for the Red Cross. Problems found included ear infections, intestinal infections, sinusitis, cataracts and skin infections.
4) Cam Ly, a residence for 55 children from rural poor families and did health checks. These children are often from minority groups and may be orphans. They live in DaLat to obtain and education and are supported by a group of Catholic Nuns.
5) The Lam Dong Blind institute, reviewing 50 adults and children
6) Happiness house, a small residence for 15 blind and disabled children run by Catholic nuns and performed health checks.
In total approximately 300 children were assessed. All were wormed. Dental care was oganised for about 40 children. We trained carers and teachers in 5 institutions to diagnose and treat common ear infections, and supplied them with equipment to examine ears and supplies of antibiotics for this purpose. We also provided a treatment sheet translated into Vietnamese for conditions such as dyspepsia, bronchitis, gastroenteritis and scabies for Cam Ly, Happiness House and Don Bosco. Our plan was to leave behind the basic skills to manage these common problems because access to primary care is relatively expensive and difficult to obtain by these disadvantaged groups. People access medication without prescription. We were leaving guidance to help make correct therapeutic choices
Lam Dong Blind school
This is a residential community of the blind and partially blind (ages 5 to 50+yrs). Those who can, go to a public school where lessons are taped for them and the older residents tutor the students in Braille. This was our 4th visit since 2009 and we have worked with the Principal, Mr Truong, each time. On their wish list, this year was a washing machine. We discussed their reasons and decided to buy two machines. These totaled approx. $660.00AU.
They have developed their massage business a great deal since last year and plan to convert another area into a massage room. They have lessons in massage and now wear a white coat as a uniform.
There were a lot more new faces in the community than in previous years and several familiar faces were absent. So, in some ways, we were starting from scratch with the majority of the community, teaching English that they need in their business dealings with English speaking tourists.
We visited them each afternoon with Diane and Gary taking the younger, less able group doing a variety of activities and Narelle working with the older adults with their English. As always they were very welcoming and eager to join in. Over the two weeks, their confidence grew a deal. Those who had been there in past remembered some of the songs and English that we had covered in past years and the new residents improved quickly.
They still use the musical instruments we donated.
Narelle, Diane, Gary, Lisa, Mark and Ingo
An endearing little home for blind and/or mentally/behaviorally challenged children aged from about 5 to 17 yrs. This was our 3rd annual visit to this group and Sr Quinn, the Principal, has been there each time.
We went there each afternoon after the Blind Association to do various activities with them. This gives their carers some much needed relief time. The children are engaging and responsive and happily joined in the various activities such as, passing a bell ball to music, English nursery songs, soccer games, play dough, rhythm activities etc. We also take the children on an outing to have ice cream.
We take Sr Quinn to the market for food, clothing and other needs they may have, such as 20 small stools. We asked her about larger items and she said a microwave and a dryer – to be used in laundry business. The market and ice cream trip, appliances and a donation for fresh food in the next few months totaled approx. $1,440.00AU.
CamLy minority children’s home
This is a home where children of minority families board during the school year. This enables them to receive an education that is not possible for their families to afford. We have had three annual visits here and have developed a good relationship with the Principal, Sr Dau, and the children.
Still great excitement for “sister-school” project with Newcastle East public school. Supplied clothes, food and basic medicines. Explored further building project options for CamLy. We were able to provide a water well for Cam Ly (water for showers, washing and toilets), 2 new bedrooms and a dining area with a new roof from MESCH funds.
Sr Dao had identified the need for a cheaper water supply. This had been discussed on each trip and options had been proposed by Philip. After numerous discussions with Sr Dao, she proposed a bore. Advice was taken from Australian contractors regarding feasibility, likely output and the possibility of using solar power to enhance the capital gains. Finally, after a phone hook-up facilitated by Lily Tran, a decision was made that MESCH pay the school to employ the services of a Vietnamese contractor (of their choice) to sink a well to provide water for sanitation. The project commenced in February 2012 and was successfully completed 45days later to 110m. The output is 8L3/day and is controlled by a timer. This is 4L3/day less than what Sr Dao had hoped for. It was estimated to cost up to $AU11,474 and we provided $AU11,500 (~$US12200.43). Money was transferred via PennyTel. Estimated loss from VN bank charges was 1.45%
Sr Dao had been concerned re poor habitability of both the girls and boys dormitories. This had been discussed on each occasion and Philip had proposed some solutions. Sr Dao had proposed an alternate plan and engaged a local builder to extend the dormitories towards the rear of the building, greatly increasing the floor space (by 70m2), ventilation and light. She had used a little of the money for the bore and un-named loans.
We made a market trip for food and other needs such as 50 small stools and 5 round plastic tables for their new dining area to replace the old wooden furniture. The total of the shopping trip was approx. $1130.00AU. An amount of $850.00AU that had been raised by Newcastle East Public School was given to Sr Dau. This was partly going to be used to replace their broken desks.
We had letters from the Australian students at Newcastle East translated to Vietnamese and gave them to Sr Dau. The following week, we collected their replies (they were already translated for us), to bring back. There is great excitement at Cam Ly and Newcastle East when we deliver the letters. This is proving to be a good sister school arrangement benefitting both parties.
We continued our links with the Red Cross and visited a day school for street children.
Milton Sales met with Dr Nga, the regional director of the Red Cross, who facilitated our primary health care teams access to Mercy House street Kids centre, Don Bosco, the Pagoda Orphanage and Da Thao Kindergarten where we performed health checks and provided a new toilet block for the kindergarten. We were invited to communicate with Dr Nga prior to 2013’s visit to facilitate approval of our visits. They will require the same paperwork as the Lam Dong Hospital for approval, and a list of medications and activities we will undertake.
We provided a new toilet block for a kindergarten in Xuan Thao that caters for poor rural children, improving public health and increasing the capacity of the kindergarten
Red Cross, via Mr Bao, had emailed us a costed proposal for improvements to the sanitation at Xuan Thao – a pre-school for children of subsistence farmers ~17km from DaLat. 2 different figures were sent – the most recent was ~$3.7K AU. The proposal was not accompanied by proper specifications and, as it proposed 8 toilets for 2 small classes of preschool children, seemed extravagant. Discussions took place at Dreams Hotel with Mr Bao, the builder proposed by Mr Bao (Mr Chinh), Milton S, Narelle C and John C. Giao Chi interpreted and Mrs Dung had some input. At the conclusion of this, an alternate proposal for 4 toilets was suggested and subsequently costed. In accordance with local and Australian procedure, another builder (suggested by Sr Dao) was appraised and a site visit by this new builder, Mr Bao, John C (and Giao Chi) was made. Staff, including head teacher and vice principal were present. The new builder did not submit a quote. His explanation was that Mr Bao had “said something to him”. Further investigation did not elicit the exact explanation save for the fact that it was clearly intimidatory in some way. Since the new quote from Mr Chinh for 4 toilets was not significantly cheaper than for 8 and we have other reasons to maintain good relations with the Red Cross, it was agreed to support the project. Project cost was 85,837.000VND with payments to be by 3 installments with documentary evidence of progress sent to us. Money was left with Mrs Dung at Dreams Hotel. Progress payments have been made and we have photographic evidence of the work
The planned project, by any measures, was poorly conceived initially. However, it was sustainable and, with a good deal of discussion, ended up well.
Red Cross are a government organisation in Vietnam with a widely held perception of being open to corruption. It has certainly been our impression that there has been some gratuity between Mr Chinh and Mr Bao
With regard to building projects, we need to be wary of engaging directly with the Red Cross in DaLat
As above, there were inefficiencies and misunderstandings in the provision of this infrastructure. That related largely to things being done remotely. In part, however, it also related to the absence of a single nominated person to oversee the project from start to finish.
This is a Buddhist orphanage introduced to us by Mr Bao from the Red Cross. We ask them for a shopping list and take them to market. We were pleased to see that there had been some improvement in their situation from last year. They now have more help with looking after the children. Last year there was only the elderly head nun and a young novice to look after about 27 primary aged children. This year they have 3 more nuns and a cook. They treated us to a wonderful lunch on our return from the markets. Their shopping trip totaled approx. $420.00AU
Mercy House for street children
This is a Red Cross group that helps children who try to earn income for their families by selling lottery tickets or begging on the streets of Da Lat. The organisation tries to encourage the children to attend school in the afternoons and they also feed them one or two meals a day. There is some confusion for us about a second group of street children connected to a large Catholic organisation called Don Bosco. It appears that the groups are interrelated with the children being able to frequent both places for help.;">Due to our experience last year of a dishonest volunteer worker who tried to recoup money from our market trip, we were a little wary of being involved again. The person in question was present at our visit but Mr Bao (Red Cross) assured us of her now, very limited involvement with any management responsibilities. She did not accompany us this time on the shopping trip.">Their list included food, cooking supplies and 50 jackets. We left an agreed amount of money to supply fresh food for the next 5 months. This money will be used for food for both groups of street children. Mr Bao was asked to supply photographs of the children at some of the meal times for us, which he has done so far. The total cost for this group was approx. $1,900.00AU.
John C had contacted Accor, believing they had 2 hotels in DaLat. They don’t have any, but are planning on opening one in 2013 and are keen to get involved (they have a planned one in Bangkok). They do not see the food as an issue. They do not know how the logistics will work. If we get it working in DaLat, it will enhance option of new ones coming online as well. Specific contacts are:
Charlotte Gutte, Regional Director of Sales - Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Phillipines and Vietnam and
Vasu THIRASAK Director of Communications - Southeast Asia.
5 hotels were identified prior to arriving in DaLat and 2 more added on arrival.
John C (and Giao Chi) had face-to-face meetings with:
Truong Thi Chau Deputy GM DaLat Plaza Hotel (no decision)
Ms Thao F.O.M Saigon DaLat hotel (no decision)
Tran Phunong Anh Vice director Sammy Hotel (very supportive)
Ms Thuy FOM Blue moon Hotel (no decision)
Mr Thanh CEO of La Sapinette (declined – food safety concerns)
Mrs Nguyet (GM Palace Hotel) (declined – pre-existing contracts to take the excess!?!)
Subsequent email communications with Mr Nhon (GM Vietsopetrov hotel) have, to date, not gotten a response.
We are extraordinarily grateful to those individuals and organisations who support MESCH either by donating equipment, attending our fundraisers or donating money. Although we cannot list all of you (because we don’t know who some of you are!) the known list of our 2012 sponsors is on our sponsors page on the website.
DGR and Relief fund status
Charitablestatus Involvement in Rotary remains a vexed question. Its advantages to our fundraising efforts and our ability to achieve international transport of our personnel and equipment, must be weighed against our achievement of individual charitable status..
John Cassey has pursued this matter. It has been an enormous amount of work, and an enormous amount of reading. Many written submissions need to be undertaken within the next month. John will need assistance with these
We are relying on the help of volunteer accountants and solicitors to undertake and finalize this new independence. The legal firm assisting us is Hickson’s lawyers.
John is hoping that our charitable status is achieved before projected legislation targeting the definition of charitable status from the federal government, forecast to be in October this year. Relief fund monies need to be spent on development area and not on welfare.
Rustica fine dining evening
The enormous amount of work undertaken by the Rustica staff to ensure this evening was a success was outstanding.
Will Creedon, part owner of Rustica was our initial contact. Will’s partner in Rustica is Mark Hosie, whose prime role is as chef. They then utilized their contacts in the industry to ensure food, wine, weekends away and many other items were donated to make the evening a fun and generous evening for our paying guests. The food was excellent. Olga Dimkos, the events manager and her wonderful staff ensured the evening was promoted to the last detail. The menus were a work of art and managed to promote both MESCH and our many providores and sponsors (thank you to Tobie from Rustica). The wait staff from Rustica donated their time for free. We had 140 guests, paying $120 a head. We had live music provided by a talented, young local musician Crocq. Neil Mcguigan generously donated the wine; he gave an excellent speech on the qualities of wine and the history of its local development in Australia.
The evening raised $20,000
Soul Café /Life Church
Some of our members have been involved in the establishment of a medical clinic in the Life church premises, initially in Hamilton now in the center of Newcastle. This church works with homeless and marginalized individuals, providing many services and free meals. This mealtime allows easy access to Legal Aid, Centerlink and medical care to these people with fluid lifestyles. The medical services are billed to Medicare and the doctors involved donate all the money back to the church. The minister of the church, Kevin Wilcock, asked his committee if they could donate some of this money to our Vietnam cause. It was agreed and they donated $5,000. This was exceedingly generous from an organization that tends to our most marginalized. Kevin’s philosophy is that all everyone should be given the opportunity to give to others. They should also be allowed to enjoy that special feeling of helping others, especially if they are usually only receiving.
The Newcastle Herald
Jacqui Jones, a reporter from this media outlet, has been very generous and interested in documenting our MESCH activities. This has given us wonderful exposure to our community and so ensuring support from outside our own contacts. The Ndewcastle Herald coverage of our RUSTICA evening, both before and after the event, was invaluable. We hope to continue this association.
We have documented the details of our sponsor evening ‘thank you event’ on the NH message board
Daily updating of our Facebook page was a wonderful way of keeping all those interested in our activities in the information loop during our DaLat project in April this year. Milton Sales is responsible for the upkeep of Facebook.
Website does not work on Mac systems that do not accept “flash”. John Cassey is pursuing x3 local IT companies to work on our site and make it more appealing. They are being asked to do this work in the knowledge that we are a not for profit organization and any payment would only be as sponsors or promoting themselves through any work for us.
There has been no outcome from these approaches as yet.
Our next trip is April 2013