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All the Way to Vietnam

In the words of volunteer Marina Llull from Mallorca, Spain

Surgicorps once again has managed to recruit some of the best doctors, nurses, anesthetists and other helpers to travel all the way to the other side of the world with the only goal to provide medical attention to anyone who reaches out for their help.

On the 27th of October all of these hardworking people paused from their everyday lives to make many other lives a thousand times better. Leaving their jobs, routines and their families and friends, these volunteers were willing to go beyond feeling solidarity and take one more step. Spending their own money and time, which we sometimes forget is something pretty hard to find, these special people want to actually make a difference.

After almost two days of travelling, the first thing any foreigner feels once off the plane in Vietnam is a heavy wave of heat that comes with a very particular smell, that I´m sure most will agree is welcoming. This was Surgicorps´ ninth trip to Ho Chi Minh City, so for some of the veterans it might even feel like home.

Another feeling surely no one forgets on a trip with Surgicorps is the first glance of all the hopeful faces that stare back when you pass through the waiting room at the Oral and Maxillofacial Hospital. Faces that would soon be photographed one by one during the screening planned for the first two days. Some would cry, some would be shy, and others that had already been treated before knew the drill and did as told.

After busy schedules were made, the remaining days were non-stop, especially for the medical staff. These volunteers had no break until their work was done, even if it meant going without sleep.

In this small clinic more than 60 patients would be attended during the following week. 60 smiles in a week were very impressive.

Some volunteers were in charge of other sorts of cares. Something as simple as making those younger patients feel safe, calm, even happy can make all the difference in the world. Of course the Surgicorps´ team members were prepared and had packed whole suitcases with sweets, toys, stuffed animals, coloring books, and even clothes for all the little ones.

When the day was done there was always time for a cool relaxing shower at the Majestic Hotel and an authentic Vietnamese meal at restaurant 13, or 19, or 21. Crispy spring rolls, a nice hot pho, shrimp and delicious soft-shell crabs are all-time favorites. These local restaurants are not only an example of the Vietnamese gastronomy but of the entire lifestyle of the Vietnamese people. This means that a small restaurant can be a business for the whole family, and even a home to some. Another place where food was fascinating and delighting was the market. Dragon fruit, longan, rambutan, tiny bananas and mangos are piled up and light up the infinite aisles of fruit, coffee, tea and many dried or fried snacks.

Vietnam is definitely a fascinating country but these special trips with Surgicorps are unique for a more important reason. Surgicorps changes people´s lives-patients’ bodies are mended; volunteers receive more than they give. One trip with these remarkable people and even though you go back home and find yourself with your usual worries and chores, something in you is not the same.

Thank you for helping, sharing, and working. Thank you for making a difference.

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