A group of friends took time out for community work in Thailand and Laos. City News speaks to them about their experiences.
Contributed by Cindy Koh
Ever since he graduated from medical school in 1987, Dr. Fong Wai Yin has always been passionate about doing medical work among the less fortunate in Asia. In his early years as a doctor, Fong worked with various humanitarian organizations, making quarterly trips to provide medical aid to people living in remote parts of the region.
Today, Fong, 53, has his own clinic in Jurong West, and he still makes time for medical relief work overseas, together with his wife, Vincy, a human resource director, and friends from his church in City Harvest.
In September 2009, Fong made his first trip to Thailand-Laos with his friends from the same cell group in CHC. There, they were touched by the sincerity of the villagers, especially the young children, and were determined to return on the next trip to improve on the contributions they could make toward the well-being of these people.
On Feb. 28 this year, a team of seven embarked on their second trip to Thailand-Laos. These comprised Joel Peters, 37, a fund manager, who was the team leader; Royce Lee, 34, financial services director; Winnie Pua, 34, owner of a marketing services consultancy; Agnes Yip, 42, a spa owner; Ruth Teng, 40, a former spa trainer, and Daniel Quek, owner of a company dealing in corporate gifts.
Armed with only one cabin sized bag and a backpack each, the team assembled early at the airport, blurry-eyed but excited. They reached the Chiang Rai airport at 4 p.m., dropped off their luggage at the inn, and headed straight to a hypermarket to load up on supplies for the week and goodie bag items for the children they were going to visit. That night, after a simple dinner, the group gathered for a crash course on how to twist balloons into animal shapes, swords, flowers and crowns, taught by Quek.
The next day, the team headed off to Chiang Khong. After a grueling, two-hour bumpy ride up to the mountains, they reached the children’s home at Hmong village. The young ones ran toward them excitedly as the team began sculpting balloons while Fong set up an outdoor medical clinic. Amidst the fun, games, and giving out of goodie bags filled with candies and biscuits, time flew by quickly and the team had to leave.
The next day, it took a short boat ride for the team to go from Chiang Khong across the Mekong river to Laos. After lunch, they went straight to Nam Chang elementary school. The team was pleased to see that the zinc roof panels and paint they ordered for the school had arrived. The rest of the day was spent fixing the roof of the school and packing more goodie bags for the students. The next morning, the team made their way back to the school.
|PHOTO COURTESY OF FONG WAI YIN|
Herding 300-over students was no easy task, but the team managed to involve the older students in ball games, while the younger ones got to enjoy song, dance and balloon sculpting. The children let out shouts of delight as they were handed the stationery and goodie bags.
The Singaporeans brought along with them sports equipment, three computers and a laptop, all of which were purchased in Thailand, and donated to the school. The principal expressed gratitude and revealed that although the lessons start at 10 a.m. every morning, the students had arrived two hours earlier to await the arrival of the visitors. After a simple lunch, the team sat down together with the principal to work out lesson plans and discuss how they could continue providing assistance and aid to the school. That evening, the team departed, with a renewed commitment to do all they could to ensure that the school would get the help they needed.
On the fifth and final day of the trip, the group, although tired, was up nice and early, as they set out to travel from Chiang Khong to Chiang Rai, to visit a Hmong village where they provided medical support and conducted fun activities for the children. The medical team set up a mobile clinic in the grounds of a local church, while the others headed off to a nearby elementary school, armed with balloons, goodie bags and song and dance routines.
The five days proved to be fruitful for everyone on the team, having reached out to more than 600 children and helped over 200 patients. As they touched down in Changi International Airport, the group fell silent, recounting the memories of the trip, yet determined to make plans for the next trip some time soon. As they parted ways to head back to their respective homes, the phrase they uttered was not “goodbye” but, “see you on the next trip!”
According to Fong, future plans include the setting up of a mobile library as well as a basic first aid course for the school teachers in the Thailand-Laos area.