Meet The People At MESCH

MESCH is a group of friendly, happy individuals with different backgrounds and skills. We are proud of what we've done and excited about the future.

Meet some of us... 


Amanda Taylor

Volunteer & Member

Amanda is a proud Novocastrian native who thought MESCH was an absolutely brilliant idea when she first heard about the charity many years ago. She's been volunteering with the group since 2014 and is the treasurer. Apart from appealing to her passion for understanding people, cultures and communities and how this balances with normative ethics, the concept of an Australian (Hunter) based charity which promoted SUSTAINABLE aid really appealed. It didn't hurt that the MESCH family was very welcoming and allowed her to flexibility to assist in other ways before going on her first trip in 2017. Outside of her volunteer duties, Amanda is an anaesthetist, married to Michael. They have 3 young children.

Amelia Ham

Volunteer & Member

Hello, my name is Amelia Ham, also known as Amma, also known as mum (mainly just to my 2 beautiful girls).  In 1996, I began my nursing career as an enrolled nurse on the wards at John Hunter Hospital and then at Stockton Centre.  In 2005, I completed my Bachelor of Nursing and started as a perioperative nurse at the JHH.  Here I was fortunate enough to work alongside Sandy Graham (paediatric nurse extraordinaire) and Dr’s John Cassey, Peter Armstrong and Mich Poppinghaus.  MESCH, its activities and interesting stories were often discussed during our working day, so in 2011, I obviously jumped at the chance to get involved with the plan to share my knowledge and skills in paediatric theatre nursing.  My first trip to Da Lat Vietnam as an international volunteer was amazing to say the least.  The Paediatric Surgery, Anaesthetics and Nursing Project was exciting, challenging at times but oh so rewarding.  Reminiscing I fondly recall the organisation of donated and borrowed equipment pre-trip (and navigating 29 pieces of luggage through Australian and Vietnam customs!), cleaning and sterilising our instruments for the surgical lists, communicating and caring for patients and families through interpreters, and working alongside Vietnam nurses with a new-found appreciation for minimisation and resourcefulness!  Over the years I have made a few trips to Vietnam and 1 to Vanuatu, met and worked with some amazing people, and with hopefully many more to come.

Au Vu

Volunteer & Member

Just a little info about me.
I'm a radiographer/sonographer at Blacktown hospital. Love the great outdoors, spearfishing, camping, snowboarding, cycling, motorcycling.

2018 my brother La Vu asked if I'd like to work with MESCH in teaching first aid to the Vietnamese locals in DaLat. I was delighted to join as I have some background in first aid. Until now, I'm translating for MESCH with surgery at Ninh Thuan hospital and teaching the nurses (yes, nurses) in theatre to use the II (image intensifier) machine. Loving it, wish I could do more to help.

John Cassey

Volunteer &Member

Why do it?

When I stood in a supermarket queue after my first overseas trip and heard people complaining about the wait, all I could think about was how lucky that I could reliably find food and had the money to pay for it.  Working with people, in Australia or as an international volunteer, re-sets your perspectives. It’s so many other things - fun, frustrating, humbling, ….. Although the successes outweigh the frustrations, I would have given up long ago if it was just feeling good every now and again.

I was privileged in being born into a western, English-speaking country; being brought up to see similarities, not differences, between people; being able to access education to become a paediatric surgeon; and having a wonderful wife and children who actively support the work of MESCH.

Sometimes, I think the world is made up of people who solve problems and those who don't believe they can. I have a passion for finding simple, long term solutions.

La Vu Cuong

Volunteer & Member

Hobbies : camping, fishing, socialising with friends...

I started with MESCH in 2014 with the anaesthetic machine project. I went as Biomed/Translator.

Difficulties : Communications, getting the point across in a different language and culture. Understanding each other is extremely difficult.

MESCH has an interesting Sustainable emphasis, still learning about it. Gives me a chance to sample foreign beers!

Lisa Brown

Volunteer & Member

My name is Lisa and my association with MESCH came about through my admiration of some MESCH members I had known for years.  I wanted to experience what they were doing and be a part of something special.

On my first trip I travelled to Da Lat as basically an ‘observer’.  I had no specific role to play but I was extremely humbled by the experience. I realised that I had been living such a sheltered and easy life style. Back home I never had to worry about where my next meal was coming from.  This was certainly not the case for some of organisations we visited. Unfortunately this was not the only hurdle they faced.  One common element stood out throughout the visit……everyone was always so friendly and happy. They were permanently smiling JJJ

This common theme carried over to my inaugural visit to North Pentecost Island in Vanuatu where we met so many amazing and friendly people.  From the outside it would appear that these families have very little but in fact that is not correct.  They have so much love and happiness.  They have embraced the ideas and support from MESCH and they now have a thriving business, The Raga Sewing Project.  

I feel that I have made friends for life and I am very privileged to have been accepted into these people’s lives.

The people of Pentecost need tools to help them sustain and thrive. MESCH is trying to help provide this. Thankfully MESCH is not trying to change their way of life

Mark Ham

Volunteer & Member

Hello, my name is Mark Ham and my wife Amelia initially introduced me to MESCH through her involvement.  In 2012 and 2013 I was lucky enough to accompany the team to Da Lat Vietnam.  I was excited to work with both the medical and community/education teams and embraced my role as amateur photographer, small-bit videographer, and general shopping-bag-carrier (Vietnam markets are amazing!).  Not only was the experience  for me eye opening and humbling but it also made me feel like I wanted to contribute more and get involved with the people and the communities that we visited.  When I returned from my first trip, I reassessed my personal career path and  enrolled in Open Foundation and embarked on my Bachelor of Nursing to become a registered nurse.  So 4 years down the track, I am thankfully in my final year of my course and I am looking forward to next year being more available for MESCH involvement.  When my head isn’t in my books, I enjoy spending time with my family, watching movies, and letting off steam completing obstacle races.

Mich Poppinghaus

Volunteer and member

I first became interested in development aid as a teenager, but I had to travel a long road of education to finally be in a position to have something to share that may be useful.

I have taught anaesthesia in East Timor during the 2006 riots. A Peru visit in 2007, unfortunately, was service delivery only. I taught paediatric anaesthesia on four visits to Vietnam and have been the co-ordinating anaesthetist for the Myanmar Eye Care Program for the last 4 years. 

I organised the donation of 16 refurbished anaesthetic machines from New South Wales hospitals to Vietnam, Vanuatu and Myanmar. 

As a self funded volunteer it is important to protect and nurture the motivations and energies needed for going overseas since lasting change can only be achieved by repeated or prolonged visits. Volun-tourism can be destructive as evidenced by the fake orphanages in Cambodia. 

Helping in the upskilling of newly graduated Vanuatu doctors is high on my wish list.

Narelle Cassey

Volunteer & Member

My name is Narelle Cassey and my passion is not just education but having or developing a ‘can do’ attitude to learning at any age. My background many moons ago, a previous life I usually say, is in education as a primary school teacher.

I believe the key words for MESCH are sustainability and education. This applies to any community we work with and any field we work in, whether that is medical, surgical, business, building, community health, languages etc. My aim is for no volunteer or volunteers in MESCH to work alone but for every volunteer to have a person or persons from the local community standing next to them learning about what is being done so that they can continue on their own after we leave.

MESCH is about helping people to learn but, just as important, is about earning respect and trust from the people we work with, to ask them how we can help, to learn about their culture and customs, to find out what is important to them, to work with them side by side. It is important for us to remember that we are guests in their country, their home. The people we have worked with and now work with have a wonderful generosity of spirit that allow us and welcomes us into their lives, their homes and families even if they are at a vulnerable time in their life. They are beautiful and amazing people who teach us about a different way of life. It is quite humbling  to be a part of this. 

Peter Armstrong

Volunteer & Member

My name is Peter Armstrong and I was brought up in a hotel in Randwick. The adults in my family consisted of my mum and dad and my uncle Jim. He ran the pub with my parents and was a bachelor who lived with us. He was involved with the St Vincent de Paul and I went along with him on clothes drives and so on. He was a humble and generous man who did well in business but lived very simply and spent a lot of his spare time helping people. He used to say that doing well in life was a mixture of luck and hard work and that if one of those things was deficient then we could all end up just like the people who needed some assistance.

Years went by before I thought I had much to offer people. This was a mistake. I should have re-engaged much earlier. I began again shortly after I came to live in Newcastle when a surgeon friend asked me to work in Kiribas for two weeks. This involved anaesthetising people for their surgery in a very basic setting for 10-12 hours a day. I had rarely enjoyed working so much. Every day was fun and a challenge and a learning experience for me, the so-called foreign expert. I continued doing these trips for a couple of years and then an anaesthetist friend told me about a job coming up in Tonga which involved a two year contract. We had four kids by then, aged 3 to 9 and the thought of taking them all to a dot in the Pacific was daunting. Angela, my wife was really keen and so we went. My job was to teach nurses and doctors about anaesthesia and intensive care. I suppose there were difficulties and problems there but they were minor compared to the benefits to us all individually and as a family. This time reinforced our interest in helping and that has persisted into its current iteration as a member of MESCH. True helping is instructing (by showing) and teaching others what to do and when to do it so that you, the teacher, becomes redundant. This is the ground rule of every MESCH project and it is why I am involved.

Steve Threlfo

Volunteer & Member

My name is Steve and I was trained in the Electrical Department of BHP Newcastle Steelworks.  My employment track changed in 1983 when I accepted a position as a Biomedical Engineering Technician at the Newcastle Mater Hospital with a move to John Hunter Hospital in 1991, early in its commissioning phase.
In 1995 two things aligned.  I heard an address titled “When you go fishing you never know what you will catch” and the Mercy Ship, MV Island Mercy made Newcastle its home port.  After a visit to the ship, I volunteered to assist in developing a portable onshore dental treatment set-up.  Following this came an invitation to join the ship to complete field commissioning and run user training during a visit to Kar Kar Island in Papua New Guinea (PNG).  With encouragement from my wife Anne and a significant helping hand from people in the Sugarloaf area of Lake Macquarie, I spent 2 weeks on the ship and a week offering volunteer technical support to the Australian & New Guinea Administrative unit hospital in Lae.
This experience opened the door to long term involvement with professionally organised aid projects run by AusAID in PNG and Island Countries in the South West Pacific.  As well as building expertise in finding solutions in a resource poor environment, I learnt the value of carefully assessing and prioritising need before rushing in to fix something as a technical challenge or simply a problem in need of a solution.
I knew very little about MESCH until I was invited in 2011 to accompany a surgical and anaesthetics training visit to Lam Dong Hospital, in Da Lat, Vietnam.  During this visit, the MESCH approach to training and engagement over a long period through repeated visits, impressed me.  This compares favourably to donor driven, service based overseas aid work; often an intense short term activity which sometimes falls short in its consideration of the local context or its lasting effect.  
Recent involvement with the RAGA Sewing Project in North Pentecost Island, Vanuatu showed the effective transition of the MESCH ethos to a different area of activity.  
If I was asked to identify the most rewarding aspect of overseas aid work with MESCH, my answer would be, “Simply showing someone else you care about them… ”

Bao Khue

Vietnamese Interpreter and Volunteer

I love my hometown of Dalat - for the good and bad, for the new and old. As a normal emotion, I seek a better future for whatever and whoever I love. I do not need to know whether benefit can be achieved or not, or whether we will turn over a new leaf or not. I just want to make an attempt to make things a little different from the routine that is going on. Personally, that's a moment for a new breath of life into the monotonous day-in-day-out which, gradually and unintentionally, can turn us somewhat into a kind of machine. That's why I join with MESCH.

Sometimes, I feel a little bit sorry for MESCH because you put a lot of  effort into your “dream” and, seemingly you cannot yet gain the target you set up for the Health Care program here in Dalat. But, as you have all shown no sign of surrender, I feel it partly my mission to keep moving forward with you since my first participation in 2012.

As an English tutor for school students, I know that training and educating is nowhere as smooth as we wish. However we get no choice but to be "stubborn" and wait...

An Nguyen

Vietnamese Interpreter and Volunteer

Hi, I am An, a freelancer who loves wandering. I pursue "minimalism". According to MBTI test (Myers–Briggs Type Indicator), my personality type is INFP (introversion, intuition, feeling, perception). My dream is "to lift someone up".  One of the wonderful things in my life is to have a chance to know MESCH. I started working with MESCH in 2012. I have experienced, learned and grown thanks to the time working with MESCH on their projects in Dalat, Vietnam. I have met and seen various faces and fates.

The word "sustainable" of MESCH greatly inspires me. I believe we can do it if there are more and more groups of good people who do good things like MESCH. "Sustainable development" cannot happen when materialistic values are our top priority every day. I hope more young Vietnamese people have a chance to work with MESCH like me. You will be inspired!

Giao Chi

Vietnamese Interpreter and Volunteer

My parents didn’t have much money so I felt a bit isolated and unhappy a lot of the time – not having the things/ food/ education that other kids had. I thought I was never going to be happy because I always compared myself to them. Looking back, I am grateful for the influences of my parents and realise how much I have.

I have always wanted to contribute to unfortunate people, especially to children in the hope of that they will have something better than me. My passion for working with MESCH extends beyond this to the opportunities and experiences MESCH has given me - dealing with a wide range of people (directors, doctors, ethnic minorities…) in education, medical and community fields since 2011 as a Vietnamese-English interpreter. My skills, languages and “visions” have all been improved. For me, it is not only an organisation of opportunity makers, but also great teachers.

I consider myself an extrovert, trained in tourism and travel management at the University of Dalat - a southern highland region in Vietnam. I feel a strong affinity to St. Augustine's comment that "The world is a book and those who do not travel, read only one page". I want to increase my awareness of culture and learn what people’s signals mean and share my own signals so they can understand me. Sometimes I find it really hard to understand our people as they often say yes to things but not doing them or vice-versa. I think I should do a course in psychology or anthropology!

My advice: Apart from doing your job to earn a living, do not wait until you have money to do charity. I strongly believe that when you give someone a smile, you will get happiness. Very simple, isn’t it?

Khang Vo

Vietnamese Interpreter and Volunteer

I have been working with MESCH since 2012 as Vietnamese translator for some projects in Dalat, Vietnam. As the meaning of “Sustainable”, MESCH provides not only financial help to people and organisations in my hometown but also ­­­long-term solutions to improve their situation through education & training. Many people would say helping is giving people money, building them a new house or offering them a better job. It’s right, but not enough. Helping is not only about providing financial support but giving people opportunities to become independent and confident as well.

Although there are disappointments and failures, MESCH never give up. I’ve seen many of committed members, who are doctors, nurses, teachers, technicians, etc. working hard and dedicating their time & energy to find the best solutions for each of the difficulties of each project. For all these reasons, I have been and will do my best for MESCH. 

Vy An

Vietnamese Interpreter and Volunteer

Hello, My name is Vy An

I was born in a small city of Vietnam. Although I have never left my country, I always want to go abroad for travelling, working, studying and gaining more experience. I work in the “accessories” industry (Leather, Athletic shoes and Crochet stuff) and I have 3 stores in my hometown. I started working for MESCH since 2015 by chance. My sister worked for MESCH as an interpreter, and she asked me if I wanted to work with them because they needed one more interpreter. So I took it as a chance to learn more about a whole new field that I never had the opportunity to approach.

Working for MESCH is a challenge which is helping me to improve myself. I don’t have many obstacles here except the difficulty of specialised language and also the Vietnamese working culture. But I’m working on it and developing my knowledge. I can see that MESCH brings good chances and support a lot for Viet’s community without any hope of paying back. I share the same Ideal with MESCH. That’s why I work for MESCH.