Dr Ngo Minh Pham
GP, Vietnam Field Trip 2014
I went on my first VVP field trip to Ca Mau this year with my daughter. It was full of apprehension when I put through my volunteer application to Dr Vo early this year, having had sown the seed of contemplation some eight years ago, when VVP was officially introduced to Perth by Dentist Giao through a very successful charity function that she organized.
Subsequent years went by full of empty promises blaming family and work commitments. My closest connection to VVP being Dentist Tai, who kept me constantly amazed by his ability to volunteer with VVP every single year without failed (or I believe Tai went every year) with his solo Dental Practice commitment, and a family much younger than mine.
Needless to say, the level of apprehension heightened when time came short of the departure date. It was a combination of doubt about my capacity to be useful to the group, therefore my ability to serve the poor that VVP was meant to help, and the helpless feeling of being away from my family for the first time.
Once the meaning sank in, quandary aside, servitude became a second nature.
No matter then the 04:30AM wakeup call for 05:30AM breakfast, to be ready for the bus to Ca Mau Hospital at 06:30AM. No matter then the fast pace consultations to ensure the patients’ safely through their treatment. The end of the first day brought a mutual relief to all the first time volunteers in our GP team, with Dr Nguyen, her sister Pharmacist Lee, Laura, and myself. The veteran volunteers (Dr Tam, Pharmacist Chau and Dr Loc) were a tremendous force in our rapid teething process. An honourable mention goes to Laura, our Irish volunteer, who was brave enough to be part of the GP team and became our frontline. The second day saw us proudly operated like a team of veterans. By the third day, there was no doubt that we understood our purpose, having received more in return than the effort of our contribution.
How do I feel now two months after my first VVP trip?
If you have been contemplating for more or less than the time that I did, I’ll let you know when we come together for the VVP trip next year; but then you probably would not want to ruin the full satisfaction of discovering for yourself. As for my daughter’s experience? She has already determined to volunteer for the full two weeks next year, well before I could make my decision to go again. I guess with a young open mind, she understood VVP purpose much more. Nevertheless, I’ll have plenty of opportunity to learn more next year.
One last thing, about the very old and wise Rotarian, thanks Max. Also the not so old Rotarian, thanks Jim.
How did I feel after completing the 1 week tour?
Everything became hectic and mesmerized from the moment of departure from Perth to the last day I had in Saigon. New friends to acquaint, old friends re-acquainted, and constant curiosity about the meaning of VVP work kept me busy. I guess as one grew older, there is an unfortunate disadvantage of being more skeptical about the ulterior motive of people’s good intention.
Fortunately, I had a whole 7 hours bus ride to Ca Mau to discover the meaning of charity, which was very well summed up by the oldest Rotarian in the group:
"Wealth is not how much you achieve in your life time, but it is what you leave behind ..."