2011 Report


It was a wonderful homecoming in March and there were lots of hugs. There has been a palpable increase in trust and familiarity since last year. This has resulted in a greater receptiveness to initiatives, much less formality and a consequent exposure to more personal views within the organisations with which we work. Acceptance has also resulted in a faster turnaround in paperwork!


Mai Anh (Lily) Tran, Nguyen Giao Chi (very keen. Unlikely to be available next year as applying for business scholarship in US. Good English, Tram (available all the time for Biomed. Very good but shy and not effective at blind school), Thom (only available twice for education group due to timetabling. English good for teaching), Hanh (English teacher. Only 1 day despite alleged availability sporadically entire time. Keen, good English), Huong (available nearly all the time but unlikely to be available next year as applying for business scholarship in France. Keen but English not good enough for negotiation), Hien (and friends, including Tien. Mrs Dung’s neice. Very keen. Came 5-6times. Excellent English. Negotiations would be appropriate), Duc (ex tourist guide. For M&M in Don Bosco and Lang Biang. Adequate English but not for negotiation), Linda Anh Phuong (Teaching student. Worked 1 afternoon. Not good enough English) .
Continuity was achieved with Biomed and the other medical groups. However, the interpreters for the education group were much less consistent and/or their language ability was insufficient for negotiations -some needed to be repeated by Lily because of language difficulties. Ideally need 2 for screening and primary care, 1/teacher +1 for the education group and 3 for the hospital (1 anaesthetics, 1 surgery and nursing and 1 biomed). Costs for interpreters need to be formalised.

Photos and video were taken by individuals, often interpreters. The interpreters’ ideas of what to take were, understandably, broad. The result was a lot of excess video footage - some which was poor quality. Photography needs to be identified as a “job”

Lien An Saigon, Dreams Hotel DaLat

Approval letter for hospital is quick. Need VN and English versions and also customs and police for equipment. No need for anything for School.

Wine and chocs (don’t need as many) worked well. Suggestion that can buy Aus wine in Saigon via “Kangaroo IndoChine” followed up. No response to date
Amelia did hats for theatre – really popular


Milton, Narelle, John, Mich and Amelia bought own laptops. There are issues with Mac/ Windows. VN uses Windows. Consider portable printer.
Resolve OS platform and software issues.

Binh - surgeon in training, a friend of Lily’s. Available 4 - 14 March. Shy, not empathic, not interested in anaesthetics, English adequate.

Biomedical technicians

This year we were joined by 2 biomedical technicians (Steve and Stean). They were accompanied by the 3 hospital technicians. They do not appear to be particularly hard working nor eager to learn. Although they understand many aspects of fault finding, they are hampered by limited access to operator manuals and parts. Able to fix ~50% of all equipment including our main instrument steriliser. Curious events when clearly obvious things weren’t fixed eg ribbon cable on a ventilator simply unplugged (a policy of creating work?).
Not keen to return in 2012 but option always available. 

Paedaitric anaesthetics, surgery and nursing

Theatres: Amelia Ham, John Cassey (group co-ordinator) and Michele Poppinghaus

Screening assisted by a nurse and GP (Maureen and Milton)Clinics in DaLat and 3 peripheral hospitals (Đơn Dương, Lạc Dương and Đức Trọng).Procedure handouts (VN language) useful.Need pictures of face and surgical site attached to name of child and a parent, approx DOB/age, address, contact phone number, diagnosis, unique ID (only useful for us). Suggest this be in xls format and portable printer.  See comments on IT above Despite assurances that bringing the trip date into the first 3 weeks of March was no problem, its proximity to Tet resulted in less publicity and fewer children to screen - ~50 compared to 150 last year. Tien says it would be better to only go to places if >20kids. We elected therefore to do some more complicated cases as well. Overall, our objectives in screening were met but the 1hr trips through the mountains not worthwhile given the small pickup. Since this was a new initiative, there was a very visible “administrative” presence from DaLat (Tien and 2 senior nurses) and local administrators. We are confident, from our experience in DaLat, that trust and credibility will be established but this may take a while. There was also an ongoing TV coverage of the screening ?cudos/ ?advertising/ ?just news. The local TV station’s wife (and friends) met with M&M. They have a degree of philanthropy (?extent). Re-evaluate outreach clinics. Go to places if >20kids. Attempt to decrease “administrative” presence. Contact local TV station’s wife (and friends) Theatres (Amelia, John, Mich)We ran 2 theatres with 8 complicated and 33 routine cases. We did a final clinic at Lam Dong Hospital to review questionable children and all with more complex issues eg hypospadias. Some surgeons feel they understand the procedures whereas other are less confident. One surgeon is hostile to many aspects. I am unsure why. The anaesthetists were, as always, happy and eager to learn. There will not be a decision by locals on what we do nor any assistance from them in making the decision. 3 bi-lingual teaching videos were made and distributed- orchiopexy (2 approaches) and inguinal herniotomy. Vietnamese as major language (Mich, John, Giao Chi and, to a lesser extent, Lily) Teaching session was on Pyloric stenosis (topic requested by Tien. ?at Son’s request). This was pointless. Mich’s contribution on airway “aids” and the US machine we brought, was well received. Pharmacy to be considered is: lanolin, 5% phenol in almond oil 5ml vials pack of 5, Triamcinalone, ?Doxycycline IV – very difficult because of keeping cool
Use only 1 theatre and focus on those who would benefit from extra assistance.
Be more proactive re teaching session. ?literature presentation for local hospitals ? specific nurse training.
Simplify equipment lists and donations

The traditional greet was followed by a progress and then a final one. Dr Hy has ongoing support from the provincial department of health and people’s committee. He remains keen to continue the project and supports 2 of his staff in coming to Aus - Dr Thnah Tham To (surgeon) and Dr Ghuam Huamg (anaesthetist). Documentation has been prepared and the approval process has commenced. He initially seemed a little unrealistic about what types of procedures that could be done. Requests by Dr Dung (director of orthopaedics) and Dr Son (Director of general surgey) for visits by Australian surgeons remain unfilled. They are particularly keen on orthopaedic surgeons to visit for general orthopaedics. Discussions re pelvic floor (fistula) suggest this is rare but prolapse and incontinence is common. Protocols of care were not discussed. Dr Hy is concerned about infection (?a future presentation). Investigations prior to theatre are untouchable. What do nurses feel about children, infection - ?literature presentation for local and surrounding hospitals ? specific nurse training Card with all people at Trivia night signing – small impact but worth it. Done by Kwik Kopy Newcastle. Perhaps Stuart Mac Donald (via uni) might be able to do it next time) Donations totalling more than $100,000AU (including a portable US machine, a paediatric surgical instrument set, several high quality endoscopes and difficult airway anaesthetic instruments) were transferred.4000AU was donated for “hospital costs Pursue Thnah Tham To  and Ghuam Huamg approval process. Length of stay in hospital to be decided prior to arrival Clarify billing for consultations and theatre


Anaesthetic machine donation

Begun negotiations for transfer of 6 ULCO anaesthetic machines


Community health

The release from MESCH screening allowed Maureen and Milton to do health checks on another 200 children and adults – Don Bosco, Blind school, Lang Biang and Happiness House. Permission to work in Lang Biang hospital was late in arriving and poorly organised. Lang Biang contact (Tang Tinh Tư) maybe a poor organiser.
Not much interest from local doctors in terms of information interchange
Pharmacy items could be bought in town- hot probs were hookworm, DU/gastritis, H/T, Otitis media and externa, respiratory tract infections. Clients were all billed for a consultation
Dental hygiene poor. Consider “mobile dentist” in 2012 – Mr Bao (Red Cross) contacted
Health checks on other children and adults

Lam Dong Blind association

Narelle Cassey (organiser) and Alison Tattersall. The community has now moved into their new building with 40 people now attending the school. Narelle and Alison had 2 rooms for teaching. As usual, this was a combination of singing, games and repetition. At the schools’ request, Milton and Maureen delivered a session on sexual health. Thereafter, it was impossible to talk about bananas (used to demonstrate the use of condoms) without getting roars of laughter!  We were delighted (and a little surprised) by their openness. Many of the group have made significant progress in their spoken English since last year and they still use their personal tape recorders for practice. The community is now well supported by tour groups and we limited financial support to supply of some lockers, more personal recorders and book shelves.
Continue English lessons
Sessions on sexual health to be repeated
Limit financial support
Health checks

Happiness House

Another of our revisits from 2010, this small community of blind children with behavioural and intellectual disabilities gets very little support. We went on a very entertaining shopping trip with them to buy clothes, food and some toys. We left a guitar donated by Latham’s music. Limited time because of Red Cross commitments
Spend more time in 2012


CamLy minority children’s home

The sister school project we’ve established with Newcastle East public school is a source of great excitement. We will give the “Who I am” introduction stories written by the Cam Ly primary school children to Mr John Beach (principal). There are already plans to send books and other school supplies. In the future some of the Newcastle families may visit. We bought clothes, essential food and groceries and left some basic medicines. We were also able to supply PC’s, TV and a DVD player from the 2010 wish list.
We left a laptop running open source software with Druin at CamLy. It also has specific software (Vinux) for blind people. Await feedback - will likely need to ask Druin at CamLy how it is going. John to email Ferdinand
Together with 2 Australian engineers (Elizabeth and Phil), we explored some of the options at both CamLy and TaNung. These will involve improving access to clean water, establishing a sustainable vegetable garden and raising and repairing the roof in the dormitories - currently ~1.8m high and leaking!
Prepare a draft to present to various groups for expressions of interest
Continue sister school project with Newcastle East public school.

Red Cross

Mr Bao spent 2 days with us looking at 6 other projects. Of these, the only one currently suitable for longer term support from us is the Xuan Tho preschool for children from subsistence farmers - at TaNung, about 17km from DaLat.
Pursue plan for a small building project - plumbing and establishment of a vegetable garden.
Mercy House for street children in DaLat was given shoes, uniforms and 2 months supply of food for the 60 children . During this experience we came across dishonesty first hand. One of the volunteers who accompanied us shopping, later returned to the grocery shop from which we had arranged delivery, tried to cancel the order and have the shop refund her the money. Fortunately, the owner knew us and what we do. She refused and alerted Sr Dau from Cam Ly Minority School to let us know what happened. Although this was an unnerving experience and necessitated an awkward conversation with Mr Bao from the Red Cross, it showed us that many people in Da Lat know what we do, were able to intervene and not give the woman any money. As in all tings to date, Mr Bao was very honest about this and took immediate action to check that all we had purchased was safe. Lily has spoken with Mr Bao since our return on another matter and he assures us the children are still getting their food and there has been no further corruption.
We see no useful long term role for us here at present but may revisit next trip (?health checks).
Our 4th shopping trip was for a Buddhist Orphanage with the head nun and 14 children.
We bought food but we can see no long term involvement here except possible for health checks.
The other projects we visited with the Red Cross were not suitable for our type of help as they were well established and seemed to be doing very well. They also asked for donations for expensive buildings rather than food or clothing and this is not what we can get involved in with our limited resources. Mr Bao understands MESCH is a small organisation which can help with small projects and supplying some essentials.
Continue contact with Mr Bao

This trip proved to be emotionally and ethically challenging being faced with the questions “who do we help” and “why help this group and not another”. Sometimes the answers were obvious - at other times they were not.


Sponsors 2011

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 them (because we don’t know who some are!) the following is the known list of our 2011 sponsors
Abbott (Paul Silveri)
Amelia Amos 
Angus & Robertson Kotara (Sue)
Australian Geographic Kotara  (Nami Jones)
Australian Reptile park (Alana)
B Braun (Nina Morris)
Barbeques Galore Kotara (Tony Brown)
Belaroma Coffee (Grant Feenstra)
Bev Cooney 
Big Green surgical company (Antony Bennet)
Blackbutt Hotel New Lambton (Troy and Fiona)
Body Science International (Selasi Berdie)
Borders, Kotara (Corey Ramsay)
Bradley Smith 
  Broadmeadow Road Day Surgery
Bronwyn Jones 
Brown Sugar at Bayviews 
Bruce King 
Carefusion (Karen Babet)
Cellarbrations Kotara (Terry Jeffery)
Cellarmaster Wines Pty Ltd (Melissa Desmond)
Charlotte, Liz and Brett Field (Doyle) 
Cold Rock Ice Creamery Hamilton (Ben Hofman)
Coles, Warners Bay 
Contours Warners Bay
Darrell Lea Kards & Kandy Kotara (Marie Martinelli)
Designs for vision (Julie Sarsfield)
Di Bradbury 
Drummond Golf Kotara (Michael Loughland and Sally Radford)
Endocorp Australia (Ferdinand Lehnard)
Energy Australia (Ben Roberts)
Euro Patisserie (Jenny)
Fibreoptic Lightguides (Liz & John Cowley)
Fordtronic (Stewart Ford)
Glenn Geary, The Good Guys Kotara (Sue)
Gloria Jean's Coffees Westfield (Lee Jenkins)
Greater Union Cinemas Glendale (Michelle Lawson)
Habitat (Kim)
  Hunter Valley Private Hospital
J & J Sutures (Murray Slee)
Jane Parkes 
Jan Hubbard
Just liberated (Jennie McAuley)
Katz Pty Ltd 
Keith Howard 
Kent O'Sullivan 
Lathams Music (Fiona Latham-Cannon)
Larimar Mind body and soul (Deb Morrison)
Lingard Private Hospital
Maree Ellicott 
Martines (Anthony McGavin)
Multigate (Alanna Leighton)
Narelle Cassey 
Newcastle X ray
Pacific Smiles Group (Alex Abrahams)
Peter Coleman
Peter Doyle 
Peter Turner 
Picture Framing Australia (Sandy and Dennis)
Ramsay health, Warners Bay Private Hospital  (Robyn White)
Ramsay health, Lake Macquarie Pvte Hospital (John Pitsonis)
Rebel Kotara (Mark Abbott)
Remedial contracting 
Remic Maintenance Services 
RM Williams (Phoebe Loneragan)
Robyn White 
Rotary Club of Maitland
Rotary Club of Newcastle Sunrise
Scott & Louise Moore 
Soul Communications 
Stephanie and Phil Berick 
Stuart McDonald
Sue O'Neil
Tattersall (Alison and Geoff)
Taronga Conservation Society Australia (Penny Scalora)
Trish Carter
Verathon Canada (Gary Edwards, Hashim Behdasht)
Vietnam air
Westfield Kotara 
William Walker


Involvement of Rotary has significantly improved our appeal to business sponsors and the tax deductibility for volunteers is welcome. Many members of that organisation have considerable experience in building projects and we look forward to clarifying details of our exact relationship with Rotary. Slow to return receipts. Project is approved by RAWCS – “Paediatric surgical team DaLat”, project number 84/2010-11.  Contact is Mr Jack Elliott. Any cheques made out to “RAWCS overseas aid fund”
We need to consider how to improve this and look forward to clarifying details of our exact relationship with Rotary.

Independent charitable status

Much of the background has been done for this. However, we would need to find people to establish a board and find a friendly accountant to set this up and there are ongoing costs. Undecided about whether to pursue


We had significant monetary boosts from Westfield Kotara, Trivia night, Trash and treasure, Chocolate bars, Markets and Ramsay Health (Lake Macquarie Hospital)
Trivia night feedback good. Suggest less silent auction. More time on sponsored items.
“Corporate” funding accounted for 1/3 of overall income
See separate accounting spreadsheet for details

Future ideas
Schools ("gold coins" etc)
Holy Family primary school Merewether beach (Mark Twohill). No reply
Newcastle East public school – Mr John Beach. They have committed to sister school project (see below)
SFX Julia Lederwasch has DVD. School council will review. Need to follow up
St James Kotara sth – Lucy Harvey suggests speaking with Mr Bowen (principal) or John Cootes
San Clemente (Mary Zeeman is secretary to principal Tony Kelly mary.zeeman@mn.catholic.edu.au). Not this time
SPX (40132630 Frances Bowen secretary to Mr Bob Emery). Not this time
Car clubs – John S, John Mayo, Shirley – letters sent to both MG car clubs. Positive response. Letters sent 2 Feb 2011. Shirley says that the request has been tabled
Westfield Kotara – New manager “Ryan” needs to be contacted re followup
Lee Jenkins (Gloria Jeans) – weekend donation “event”
Walk along lake with band at the end – Renee, Andrew Warners Bay
Bike ride with celebrity or historical facts
Cooking class – Vn or Paul
Chic flick night 
Bunnings BBQ: policy is funds must be spent locally.
The Junction Public school – Mrs Cheek. No follow-up
Meeting to arrange fundraisers TBA


www.mesch.org.au. Kent O’Sullivan has designed it. Input form Peter Turner. Videos and picture gallery up and running.
We need statement on it re not using Paypal
We need a facebook page – Mark and Amelia Ham to do
We need a logo. Narelle has put up options for discussion