A Vietnam Veterans Finds Healing in Vietnam

Roger Lutz (Far Left) during a 2015 Medical Mission in Quỳ Hợp, a rural district of Nghệ An Province in the North Central Coast region of Vietnam

Roger Lutz served in Vietnam during the latter part of the ’60s as a medic. Many of the experiences during that time are not so pleasant….however the memories that he’d cherish during that time have to do with serving the outer village people the areas ranging from Phan Thiet in the south, Tay Ninh, Quang Tri province and the areas in-between. I did a lot of Med-caps along with being a combat medic with a front line Combat unit. Remembering so vividly the villagers waiting patiently and respectively to do sick call each day. “I felt that I could win the war with medicine–so I ordered it profusely and the battalion aid station always filled the order.” Roger vividly expressed, “ I can still see all the faces waiting and looking at me intently for the medical support that most had never known before.”

Vietnam Veteran Roger Lutz tells his story on why he continues to serve as a humanitarian in Vietnam.

We were assigned to protect Villages throughout the area in order that they could grow and harvest rice and try to continue some sort of normal lifestyle. In the villages at the time, the population was made up of mostly of women and children.. Even the older boys were involved in the war effort on one side or the other.

During the times I was in these villages I served the women, the children and provided health care and medicine for dermatitis, cradle caps, various infections, wounds of all sorts, and whatever else was needed. (With the exception of pregnant ladies—which I called and had them picked up by a chopper and taken out). 

I loved the duty I enjoyed the people and felt that the way to solve the dissension in Vietnam was to capture the hearts of the Vietnamese people.. heal them, help them and so on!

NOW–more than a few years later I do the same things. I identify with and feel very comfortable and perhaps identify more with the Vietnamese-Americans due to friendship, the commonly shared experiences etc.

Dr. Quynh sort of took me under her wings and through that association I have been allowed to travel Vietnam from South to North–and have enjoyed every trip.

Last few years the shared Goals that Dr. Q and I have focus to establish a continued relationship with various ethnic communities to foster sustainable development of these underserved populations. According to Dr. Q “the public health team is the answer to sustainable community health in Vietnam through forging local alliances and collaborating to benefit their own members…”

The last couple of years PVNF obtained a permit to work in the Province of Quang Tri. We started with Anemia/Malnutrition screening at several schools in the Dong Ha-Khe Sanh areas, then expanded to working with the local government in evaluating water needs for the preschoolers at various schools.

During the ecologic disaster at the coastal area, we came in and did water testing to determine the problems or the toxicity of the water at various communities where we served.

 Most the source water in the villages are from shallow wells or surface water. Because of the deforestation of the hills during the rainy season, we have lots of turbidity (mud) in the water, with lots of area flooding.

Due to the decimation of the fishing industry, Quang Tri area has been adversely affected and there are many in the area that are destitute. In the rural communes where we served, the elderlies and children were left while the parents had to seek work far away.

 For the pre-school and school children, this translates into malnutrition, runny tummies, worms, and onward. Last March we did Hemoglobin testing on 3 schools in the area and found anemia levels at twice the national standards.

I just got back from Dong Ha and the mountains, where we tested preschool children, and found anemia levels as high as 70% and malnutrition at 60%…

 I had checked the water system at this school and noted that the source is a shallow well and the “Well seal” was not ideal. However, with some treatment equipment, the water could be made to meet potability standards.

Meanwhile –a major problem is Anemia & malnutrition.  While looking into a program of raising chickens that would provide both meat and eggs, we have initiated a nutrition supplement for several of the sites with highest malnutrition. This program was accepted and PVNF pledged the funding, and the support staff while the mixture of soy-peanut milk is cooked by the teachers onsite. In addition, PVNF provides vitamins and training.

Providing support Initially comes with another long-lasting responsibility!  We now have taken on the mentorship of this school or community. This means regular visits to make sure that the program is administered correctly and that the children’s health is positively influenced. And even more, we have established a relationship that is somewhat akin to an extended family that shares problems, solutions, smiles and sometimes sorrow.

In the Dong Ha area—this was the 4th time for me to return to selected pre-schools where we provided water treatment equipment.  I have come full cycle after half century, returning to give life and hope…

 

Kindred Spirits Gather To Give Back and Make A Difference

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” ~ Mahatma Ghandi

People volunteer for different reasons. Some are personal. Others are about the causes they are passionate about. And on this beautiful southern California Sunday afternoon, more than thirty volunteers with the youngest at seven, come together to donate their time and talents to build arm restraints for children who will undergo surgery in March 2019.

After a brief introduction, team Southern California “Smiles for Hope” is in full swing with people cutting ribbons, boards and decorating them with designed duct tapes, putting on Velcro and punching holes. It’s a hive of activity and everyone feels at home. The initial goal is to make twenty five pairs of arm restraints. But the final count is sixty. Everyone works until the materials run out. But the most poignant moment of the event came during the meal break. Thuy-Linh Nguyen opens with welcoming remarks including a call to be the change we all wish to see for the less fortunate in Quang Tri.

 

Tina Le and Mark Samala follow with a brief history about Project Vietnam Foundation and what it’s like to be a part of the medical mission.

Everyone then introduce themselves and share the reason why they are there. Not all know what they’re expected to help with, but all know that their selfless acts will give the people who live thousands of miles away hope and joy and the knowledge that they are loved and cared about.

Kindred in spirit, everyone works together to live up to the principle that there is a service requirement beyond our comfort home. They all come to give back. And they all want to come back to give more. Our next project will be packaging First Aid Kits.

Stay tuned.

Visit our gallery to see more photos from this event by clicking here

PVNF Smiles For Hope in San Jose, CA preps Arm Restraints for Upcoming Surgery Mission

PVNF Smiles for Hope Volunteers in San Jose got together to celebrate a successful 2018 fundraising gala. With a great potluck and an overflow of friendship, we congratulate each other on a job well done! But we can not forget to thank all our generous donors, friends, and family for your support!

After celebrating, we got to work right away to get ready for our Spring 2019 surgery mission in Quang Tri. With volunteers from age 7-75, we worked hard to make these colorful and functional arm restraints. From cutting ribbons to putting in soft foam padding and decorating with colorful duct tapes we hope to make the arm restraints comfortable and look less scary for our patients. Everyone contribute to the workload according to their ability. We even had singers serenading us while we work! It was 4 hours of hard work, but we kept going, knowing how crucial these arm restraints are for keeping our patients from scratching at their surgical wound, preventing wound opening/ wound infection, and keeping the IV in place so our patients don’t have to suffer through multiple iv sticks. These arm restraints will be sanitized and ready for our patients this spring!

In the meantime PVNF team in OC is getting ready for spring 2019 mission by working with our host hospital in Quang Tri, getting work permits, recruiting volunteers, and gathering patients. The work had only just begun! We will be sending updates as we progress through each stage of preparation. Will keep you posted!

Volunteering in a Small Team in Quang Tri, Vietnam

Volunteering in a Small Team in Quang Tri, Vietnam by Vi Lam

Despite working with PVNF for the past three years, this was the first time I ventured to the central area of the country and my experience in Quang Tri is undoubtedly the most memorable one so far. As the only Vietnamese-speaking member of the team, I got the opportunityto know the faculty at Quang Tri Medical College very well, and despite the language difference, they made sure other members were also feeling at home. During our first week of CPR training, the professors and faculty were very receptive tothe curriculum. Not only were they enthusiasticin participatingduringlectures, their immense energy could also be felt during the practicum. After these training sessions, our team members were invited to several social gatherings with the faculty, during which we learnedvaluable information from the rich history of Quang Tri to restaurant recommendationsthat cannot be found on the Internet. After four short weeks, our Vietnamese-American members developed a deeper appreciation for the language and culture of their home country as well as gaining valuable insights into the healthcare landscape of Vietnam, especially the rural and underserved areas.

 

One of the most memorable memoriesfrom my Quang Tri trip, however, is a non-healthcare related one. Within the first week, our team befriended a local high school student who was interested in pursuing studies in the United States. Listening to her reason for chasing after such a big dream was truly inspiring as she remindedme of myselfseveral years ago. Coming from such a small town in central Vietnam, where the war remnants were still visible, studying abroad was truly an unattainable dream, but this made me want to help her so much more. As there were not a lot of available resources for English learnersin Dong Ha, Quang Tri, she was improving her English skill by watching YouTube videos and the TV show ‘Friends’. As she looked up to me and the other team members as her mentors, her family also welcomed us into their home with great hospitality. Whenever I had time after the training workshops, I guided her through the American college application process and told her storiesabout my college experiencein the States. Although this is not a personal accomplishment, it was the most rewarding experience as I made a difference in a girl’s life by introducing her to the endless opportunities outside of Vietnam.

Pediatric Training during the Summer Training Mission in Quang Tri, Vietnam
Pre-Hospital Care Training with PVNF Volunteers
Medical School in Quang Tri, Vietnam

A Teen’s Journey

On March 8, 2018, I embarked on a week-long journey with the Project Vietnam Foundation (PVNF) to help provide medical care for the impoverished people of Central Vietnam. This journey not only deepened my understanding for my cultural heritage, but it also strengthened my admiration of the resilience of the Vietnamese people.

The Story of Siu H’Le – The Little Girl Who Never Stopped Hoping

On March 2, Myhanh and I traveled to Pleiku to pick up Siu H’Le and another child to bring with us back to Saigon. Although before our trip, we made a few stops, one at the temple for the families to say their prayers and one at an orphanage to bring gifts and treats. At the orphanage I witness one of the most awful things a child with a deformity can encounter, I’ve heard stories but when you actually experience the words and see children be halted frozen saying, “what’s wrong with your face, why are you like that, will I get that if I touch you” being that the little girl is deaf or partially deaf, these words are just words, but watching the mother be strong for the daughter was incredible.

The Calling of A Heart Doctor

When death comes knocking at the door and the hope of living just becomes a faint fantasy; the pain, the agony, the complications that come from heart problems carry a heavy payload that cries out “please let me die, please help me, or please just let me go.” It is a sad ordeal for a lot of us with family members who absolutely try their best to keep their loved ones alive.