17 Sep 2015 A Community Project in Laos: Working Together for a Good Cause
16 – 23 July 2015 – 27 students from International Medical University (IMU) are fortunate to be a part of the recent Humanitarian and Love mission to Laos. The 7-day mission involved three different stages. The first two days were spent on the planning of the mission work, followed by the actual mission work from 18 to 20 July, and finally concluding with two days of sightseeing around Vientiane.
This mission was conducted one and a half hours out of Vientiane in the Santhong District. The aim of the mission was to provide both medical checks by the various specialties and free medication to rural folk in and around the Santhong district.
The mission comprised of around 120 people including IMU students from a mix of various programs and a whole host of very experienced professionals such as medical doctors, dentists, optometrists and traditional Chinese medicine practitioners from Malaysia and Singapore. Besides these medical professionals, this team also comprised logistic specialists from Singapore who were the core team for the whole operation as they enabled the entire healthcare team to provide treatment to a phenomenal number of 4500 people of the impoverished community in the short span of 3 days!
The IMU team under IMU Cares comprised of 27 students from various programmes (inclusive of two new dentalalumni) was headed by our very own Prof Khoo Suan Phaik. She was responsible for making this trip a reality as well as working out the participants’ learning outcomes prior to the trip which had really helped us observe, participate and reflect. Dachaini Karuppiah from IMU Student Services together with Prof Khoo organised to get the IMU team on board to work smoothly with the entire mission.
The team of optometrists distributed hundreds of free spectacles and sunglasses. The sunglasses were especially important to this community as they are farmers and are constantly exposed to the sun, hence increasing the incidence to cataracts. It is also important to note that the dental students/new dental graduates (two) were given the opportunity to treat the community, something they would not be allowed to do without arrangements made by Prof Khoo and the willingness and patience of entire dental team to guide and allow them to learn.
There were also the Chinese Traditional Medicine team, Medicine and Pharmacy teams where we had the opportunity to work together and we learnt so much! It is interesting to note that on the second day of the mission, our very own Malaysian ambassador to Laos, sought treatment from them for his ailment!
During this trip, the IMU students were given a wide range of tasks, which included playing an active role in the administration team. They were given responsibilities such as registration, ushering and facilitation of crowds. This proved to be an interesting challenge for the IMU students as being in charge of such large crowds in IMU is a rarity. Besides that, the IMU students also played an active role in assisting each of the specialties. Many were able to pick up new skills such as fixing of spectacles, assisting the dentist with suction and also picking up rudimentary words and phrases in Lao, the language spoken in Laos – among many others!
Upon reflection, this trip certainly proved to be an amazing experience for all the students on the trip. This is because we were exposed to a host of interesting and complex issues such as how best to provide quality healthcare to a large number of people in a short span of time. We also faced major challenges such as half of the IMU students getting infected with a stomach bug on the first day of our mission work. However, IMU students proved to be a resilient bunch and did not let that stop them!
In conclusion, this trip was very beneficial as it proved to be a prime example of experiential learning that involved concrete experiences and reflective observations. Furthermore, I believe this event was a success as it has helped mould us into better students and hopefully as future healthcare professionals.
This article is written by one of the participants, Manveer Singh Bal on behalf of the IMU participants.
Photo credits : Jkai Chan Photography