Cyberjaya, 14th August 2019 – Over 40 students from Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences (CUCMS) recently participated in an international humanitarian mission to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Dubbed the Saigon Outreach of Unity & Soul (SOUL) 2019, the programme was held from 2 to 7 August 2019 and aimed to provide much-needed health screening and medical assistance for the poor community in Vietnam.
As of February 2019, United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction estimated that more than 15 million were affected by monsoon rains, typhoons and severe flooding in Southeast Asia. In Vietnam alone, natural disasters, mainly typhoons, floods and landslides left 185 people dead, missing and 134 injured in the first 10 months of 2018. Not only were their homes washed away but crops, food supply and livestock were all wiped out, leaving losses of more than 8,800 billion Vietnamese Dong (RM1.59 billion)
Recent figures from the Asian Development Bank showed that 9.4% of Vietnamese lived below the national poverty line. Even though Vietnam’s economic growth rate has been among the highest in the world and poverty in Vietnam has been reduced by 75 per cent, the country still experiences high levels of income inequality, disparities in access to healthcare, and a lack of gender equality. Many hospitals in Vietnam has only basic medical equipment and medical staffs often lack the necessary skills and experience
Responding to these issues, CUCMS’ students started collecting information, conducting research and planning for the mission since January 2019. This annual mission focused on providing health services, medical care, education and welfare support to the underprivileged community. Our students’ efforts are in line with the university’s vision of ‘Nurturing the Passion to Care’ amongst its graduates.
The team visited Ho Chi Minh, Bin Minh school, Madrasah Darussalam, Cho Eh Village, Bau Bac Village and Tay Ninh Village.
Associate Professor Mohamad Saidy Haji Ismail, Advisor for SOUL 2019 said “This is the best place to practice what they have learnt in the classroom. Rural community exposures like this will help students understand better their role as soon-to-be healthcare professionals. This will also open new opportunities for them to gain knowledge and comprehend how the real healthcare spectrum works.”
SOUL 2019 included medical check-ups, health talks and provision of basic living items for short- term aid. Two of the long-term projects were the installation of solar lamps in the village of Tay Ninh to make electricity accessible to the locals at all times and the painting of a mural in a school in Cho Eh Village.
The TFS team teamed up with Loreto, an international NGO from Australia with a base in Ho Chi Minh city. Loreto specializes in multiple types of outreach programmes and is renowned for its emphasis on sustainability and high social impact. With immense support from Loreto, TFS managed to collaborate with Bin Minh school in Ho Chi Minh City which has 220 students with learning disabilities and various other neurodevelopmental disorders such as Autism, ADHD, dyslexia and cerebral palsy. The school's main issue is that they lack largely in their supply of educational support tools that are specifically tailored to the students' needs. Consequently, the teachers at the school face high work stress and anxiety as they have to handle all the students without having proper support tools to teach with. The examples of tools needed are soft toys, PlayDoh and building blocks - these are items that can help the students improve their social skills, sensory-motor functions and daily tasks abilities
TFS collected RM22 000 in funds to allow Bin Minh school to have all the necessary educational tools they needed.
Besides distributing the educational support tools, the team also helped the school with some modifications in their classrooms and playground. They installed foam wallpapers in four classrooms to prevent hyperactive kids from injuring themselves. In addition, the team repainted old toys in the outdoor compound of the school.
Iqbal Arif bin Ismayatim, Project Director of SOUL 2019 said, “The most important thing that I learned from this mission is the responsibility of every individual. Regardless of our background, the only thing that matters is how much effort we choose to invest to help people who are in need. Also, I would like to thank all lecturers, participants, partners and sponsors who were involved in this programme. Without your support, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve our goal.”
CUCMS students have been trained to balance their studies and extracurricular activity wisely to make this humanitarian mission successful without ignoring their academic responsibilities. CUCMS believes that this type of education and training will produce graduates and medical and health science professionals that are competent and balanced physically, intellectually, spiritually and emotionally, thus in line with the mission of CUCMS.
Nor Nadirah bt Norzemi, a 3rd-year CUCMS Pharmacy student and participant said, “I noticed that I became much more aware of the society around me after SOUL 2019. The most meaningful experience for me was being able to give free medical checkup for the villagers. I was overwhelmed with emotions as most villagers cannot afford to go for a checkup at the local clinic. Although we had difficulties in communicating, I know they were so grateful to us by the look on their faces. I am extremely grateful to CUCMS for giving me this opportunity to serve the community”.
Muhammad Zulhelmi Zulkifli, a Year 1 MBBS student and participant said, “This will be the memory that I cherish the most and it was an eye-opening journey not only for me but to all participants as well. Thank you, SOUL, for the opportunity.”
Nurul Batrisyia bt Romizan, a CUCMS’ Psychology student and participant said, “The most important thing I learnt from SOUL 2019 is to be grateful and compassionate to the people around me. Being with the Vietnamese people for the past five days was a humbling experience and I believe it will inspire me and the other participants to continue making a difference”.
SOUL 2019 is the 7th international mission organized by the students of CUCMS which began with the Cambodia mission in 2013, Vietnam in 2014, Pekan Baru, Indonesia in 2015; Vientiane, Laos in 2016, Nepal in 2018 and Bangladesh last year. Engaging in volunteerism and humanitarian programmes are an essential part of CUCMS’ educational philosophy in producing holistic professionals and healthcare providers with quality attributes of leadership, competency, entrepreneurship, and resistance. For this purpose, the students of CUCMS have been encouraged to organize various humanitarian missions within the country and internationally.