Sunday, 15 July 2012

A pilgrimage to Vietnam

In a few hours I leave Colombo for Bangkok, and then fly on to Hanoi. I am excited as I pilgrim to this beautiful country with so many batches of memories, dreams and experiences that laid a foundation for me for what has turned out to be a long humanitarian career.The photo above was taken in Saigon in 1971, school schools wearing beautiful Ao Dai, and old French Taxis.

The New Zealand Red Cross IDP team in 1971. I am the one with the beard 2nd from left at the back.

How did I get to Vietnam ? In November 1970  I returned to New Zealand after spending 13 months in Antarctica as a Scientific technician, wintering over with three other men, and I was looking for work overseas with a humanitarian organisation. Luckily I was interviewed and accepted to join the 4th New Zealand Red Cross Refugee Welfare Team, resettling displaced people in the Central Highlands of Vietnam.

We worked in An Khe in 1971 and later in Pleiku and Khontum with the Montagnard people. Photo above and below.

For our medical staff, a lot of our Red Cross work was with victims of land mines and traffic accidents

Amputees used to turn up at house in Pleiku and ask for help. Here, one of our surgeons, Dr. Paul Sutherland looks at how to improve a stump so a prosthesis can be fitted. We would save up all the difficult orthopedic cases and bring over NZ surgeons once a year who gave their holiday time in the operation  theaters. Even our  President of the New Zealand Red Cross in the early 70s Mr. Wynn Beazley, a leading surgeon would come and set a great example for other Red Cross volunteers.

This was a common scene in 1971. Binh Dinh province. Will I see changes?

All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go
I'm standin' here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye