Newcastle based organisation MESCH (Medical and Educational Sustainable Community Help) is heading back to DaLat, Vietnam in early April this year to teach surgery and anaesthesia in hospital, provide community health interventions and teach English in community centres.

Under the leadership of paediatric surgeon and University of Newcastle Conjoint Senior Lecturer John Cassey, MESCH has been doing voluntary work overseas for many years. This visit will be the fifth consecutive year the team has worked in DaLat, passing on knowledge and skills so that the locals are able to continue the work after they are gone.

The fundamental idea behind MESCH is that the teams must collaborate (mesh) with existing systems to share knowledge. This ensures that people are more comfortable, they can learn new ideas faster and continuity is more certain.

MESCH works in several areas across DaLat, including Lam Dong Blind Association – a residential/’drop in’ school for the blind, CamLy – a hostel/home for minority children, and Happiness House – a small school for intellectually impaired blind children.

In Lam Dong Hospital, the organisation has achieved great success in helping perform operations on children, establishing competency in three common conditions for children under six years of age that previously were unable to be operated on locally, as well as providing medical equipment repairs and training technicians. In community health, they have provided GP health checks to remote villages and begun interventions in ‘earache’ and ‘dental care’.

Over the years, the MESCH team have watched their counterparts in Vietnam move from dependence to independence. This developing of expertise now means that young children, even babies, can get safe anaesthesia without having to be transferred to Ho Chi Minh City. In addition to sharing their knowledge, the organisation has also provided funds to improve infrastructure within the areas that they work.

The next goal for MESCH is to deliver anaesthetic machines to DaLat, as well as establishing a food distribution charity similar to OzHarvest which will collect leftover food from the hospitality industry and distribute it to local charities.

MESCH is a registered charity and all trips are self-funded. For further information or to make a donation, see their website.

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