This summer I came back to Vietnam for my fourth medical mission trip with VnHope as a Team Leader. Before you go on these trips, you try to anticipate and prepare for the long work days, monotonous pill counting sessions, and long bus rides to the clinic site. To a certain extent, every summer medical mission is the same in these regards. What distinguished VnHope 2018 from every other year was the permit issue. Unfortunately, we were unable to work in the original work location due to issues with the local government in Long An. Obviously, the permit issues frustrated a lot of people in the leadership team. At times, the situation was really bleak and we did not know if we were gonna work a clinic at all. Fortunately, Dr. Ho and Paul were able to work nonstop in order to secure a work permit in Tay Ninh, and we were able to carry out our goal of providing medical services to the impoverished people of Vietnam.
In the end, we were able to see over 2000 patients in the span of 5 clinics. While the situation was bleak at times, the remarkable group of student volunteers that we had brought insane amounts of energy, compassion, and enthusiasm to whatever task they did. Every year, I am amazed at how people can form long lasting friendships in a short amount of time. At the core of everything, all of the students were blessed to have a group of medical professionals that mentored us and taught us about how to not only succeed in medicine, but in life as well. The compassion and care that these people gave to every patient was a humbling experience for everyone. Ultimately, what you learn on this trip is that anyone can make a difference. This is evident in the fact that people with ranging proficiencies in Vietnamese and medical training can all contribute. Whether it’s a simple smile or a simple embrace, people’s lives can be improved despite language barriers. As we boarded the planes to return home, the goodbyes were hard and full of tears, but we all had unforgettable memories and countless life lessons.
While the prospect of returning to Long An is in doubt, VnHope still has the same mission of providing medical care to the people of Vietnam. As long as we all have this mission in mind, it doesn’t matter what challenges come up. As long as there are people willing to go on this trip, VnHope will continue to organize future medical missions. All that is needed is a little bit of hope every year.