As a part of our blog, we open up entries to 7G goers so that they can offer their insight of their view on the M.E.M.O. 7G mission trip. We call these entries, "Personal Perspective," and list the name of the 7G goer. These are their stories on this journey.
I think I should preface this entry by saying that these past two weeks have been the most amazing, humbling, unforgettable, and life-changing experience of my life so far. I never would have thought that in such a short amount of time, a group of almost-strangers would assemble and be able to have such an immense impact and build such strong relations along the way. I do not think that words and pictures can sufficiently portray or capture the events we have been a part of not only in Vietnam but also everything that has led up to this trip. That being said, I will try my best to describe my experiences and the insight I have gained.
|The view outside on our flight to Vietnam. Photo taken by David.|
Two weeks ago as I waited in the airport, I could not believe that I was hours away from being over 10,000 miles from home. It just felt like we were having another M.E.M.O event. It was not until I saw the green fields, brown rivers, and seemingly randomly place buildings, a scene that I vaguely remembered from a previous trip, that I started to believe that we were finally in Vietnam. After grabbing all of our luggage and heading outside, we were greeted by the heat and humidity, and that was confirmation that this was really Vietnam.
|The market place in Ben Tre province. Photo taken by Alex.|
|Local vendors at the Ben Tre night market. Photo taken by Alex.|
As we were being driven to lunch, looking outside made me feel as if we were just driving through the “bad part of town,” but then I realized that that was nothing compared to the other parts of the country. It was a common sight to see people working out of their homes, selling anything they can just to make ends meet. Growing up, my parents would always tell me about the poverty in Vietnam, and I saw it when the couple times I visited, but I don’t think it was until this trip that I understood the full gravity of the situation.
|Alex and his little buddy at the Thien Binh Orphanage. Photo taken by David.|
|Alex and his other buddy roaring with happiness. Phoebe manages to photobomb the picture. Photo taken by David.|
The first place we went was an orphanage where we also held a dental clinic. Everyone seemed a bit shy at first when the kids came out, but within minutes there were children on shoulders, lots of playing, and lots of laughter. After playing with the kids, some of us help feed or look after the younger children. These kids were something else; you could tell that they were full of imagination as they played. They didn’t need technology or toys to have fun; they made the best out of sticks and boxes. They were happy to just have someone to talk and play with. In essence, all anyone needs is human interaction. It is hard to believe that some of the caretakers are so young taking on responsibilities beyond their years and that some even grew up in the very same orphanage. Although our stay was brief, I hope that we were able to make their jobs just a bit easier for the time we were there.
|The second orphanage of the Ky Quang Center. Photo taken by David.|
The second orphanage we visited was definitely very different from the first. This temple orphanage cared for healthy and handicapped orphans. Dr. Belville described the conditions of some of these children and how preventable some of the more severe cases. It just shows how limited the resources are in Vietnam. It’s so sad to think that an 11 year old girl with hydrocephalus could have lived a normal life if she had a simple procedure done as an infant, instead she is bed ridden in a vegetative state.
Clinics were a blur. I don’t think anyone knew what to expect, not even those who had been on the trip in previous year. I knew there would be a lot of people waiting, but it was different to actually see it. We woke up early so that we could get to the clinics in time; these people were up even earlier just to wait to be seen. Some even had to travel long distances just to be at the clinic. They waited through the heat and the rain for hours. There were so many people. There were wives going for their husbands who were too weak to make the trip and children carrying their parents for the same reason. It was undeniable that these people really needed the help. Though we had to turn some people away at the end of the clinics, we pushed to see as many people as we could and help over 2000 patients over four days. Imagine the all the people we could have helped if we had more clinics! Despite the long days of clinics the volunteers that helped us out were extremely enthusiastic.
|The typical scene during clinic days. Photo taken by David.|
I guess a valid description for Vietnam is that it is a “gilded country”. Around Saigon you see a lot of fancy stores and tourist shops, but walk a block down and you’ll see vendors selling knock-offs of the same items for much cheaper prices. Drive a couple hours out of the city and suddenly you’re on dirt roads surrounded by jungle. The people here do not know the luxuries that we have here in America, and we do not know the desperation like they do in Vietnam. Dr. Duy always said throughout the trip that it was essential to spread knowledge in order to close the gap between third and first world countries. I took it to mean that people need to be more aware of the hardships and poverty on a more global scale. I’m not saying our problems are invalid, but often times we become so engrossed in them that we forget that there is so much going on in the world. I think that we have some sort of a social obligation to help these people out in any way possible, whether it is spreading awareness to actually participating in a mission trip. Maybe we should start sacrificing the things we want so that we can help people get the things they need.
|Some of the scholarship students posing for the camera. Photo taken by Alex.|
I will forever hold the memories of this trip and this organization near and dear to my heart. I have M.E.M.O to thank for providing the opportunity to see that with just a little effort and teamwork, people can make a big impact even in a country an ocean away. And through all the work we have done, I believe I have strengthened previous friendships and made incredible new ones as well. This has to be my biggest accomplishment and work that I am most proud of. We’ve worked hard, we’ve played hard, and it’s time for us to continue all the amazing work we do to prepare for next year. 7G Forever. M.E.M.O Forever.
|Karaoke social with the 7G team! Photo taken by David.|