Lending a helping hand

CUCMS students repainting and repairing old toys at the Bin Minh school during the SOUL 2019 programme.

MORE than 40 students from Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences (CUCMS) took part in an international humanitarian mission to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.

Dubbed the Saigon Outreach of Unity & Soul (SOUL) 2019, the programme was held from Aug 2 to 7 and was aimed at providing health screening and medical assistance for the community in Vietnam.

As of February 2019, the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction estimated that more than 15 million were affected by monsoon rains, typhoons and severe flooding in Southeast Asia. In Vietnam alone, natural disasters, mainly typhoons, floods and landslides left 185 people dead, missing and 134 injured in the first 10 months of 2018.

Not only were their homes washed away but crops, food supply and livestock were all wiped out, leaving losses of more than RM1.5 bil.

Responding to these issues, CUCMS’ students started collecting information, conducting research and planning for the mission from January this year.

This annual mission focused on providing health services, medical care, education and welfare support to the underprivileged community.

The students’ efforts are in line with the university’s vision of “Nurturing the Passion to Care” among its graduates.

The team visited Ho Chi Minh, Bin Minh school, Madrasah Darussalam, Cho Eh Village, Bau Bac Village and Tay Ninh Village.

SOUL 2019 adviser Assoc Prof Mohamad Saidy Ismail said: “This is the best place to practise what they have learnt in the classroom.”

“Rural community exposures like thess will help students understand better their roles as soon-to-be healthcare professionals.

“This will also open new opportunities for them to gain knowledge and comprehend how the real healthcare spectrum works, ” he said.

The SOUL 2019 programme included medical check-ups, health talks and the provision of basic living items for short-term aid.

Two of the long-term projects were the installation of solar lamps in the village of Tay Ninh to make electricity accessible at all times and the painting of a mural in a school in Cho Eh Village.

The team worked with Loreto, an international non-governmental organisation from Australia with a base in Ho Chi Minh city. Loreto specialises in multiple types of outreach programmes and is renowned for their emphasis on sustainability and high social impact.

With immense support from Loreto, the team managed to collaborate with Bin Minh school in Ho Chi Minh City which has 220 students with learning disabilities and various other neuro developmental disorders.

The school’s main issue is that they lack a supply of educational support tools that are specifically tailored to the students’ needs. Consequently, the teachers at the school face high work stress and anxiety as they have to handle all the students without having proper support tools to teach with. The examples of tools needed are soft toys, PlayDoh and building blocks - these are items that can help the students improve their social skills, sensory motor functions and daily tasks and abilities

The team collected RM22,000 in funds to allow Bin Minh school to have all the necessary educational tools they needed.

Besides distributing the educational support tools, the team also helped the school with some modifications in their classrooms and playground.

They installed foam wallpapers in four classrooms to prevent hyperactive kids from injuring themselves.

In addition, the team repainted old toys in the outdoor compound of the school.

SOUL 2019 project director Iqbal Arif Ismayatim said the most important thing that he learnt from this mission is the responsibility of every individual.

“Regardless of our background, the only thing that matters is how much effort we choose to invest to help people who are in need.

“Also, I would like to thank all lecturers, participants, partners and sponsors who were involved in this programme.

“Without your support, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve our goal, ” he said.

Third year CUCMS pharmacy student Nor Nadirah Norzemi said: “I noticed that I became much more aware of the society around me after SOUL 2019.”

“The most meaningful experience for me was being able to give free medical check up for the villagers.

“I was overwhelmed with emotions as most villagers cannot afford to go for a check up at the local clinic.

“Although we had difficulties in communicating, I know they were grateful to us by the look on their faces, ” she said.

MBBS first year student Muhammad Zulhelmi Zulkifli said this will be the memory that he cherishes the most.

“It was an eye-opening journey not only for me but to all participants as well. Thank you, SOUL for the opportunity, ” he said.

CUCMS psychology student Nurul Batrisyia Romizan said she learnt how to be more compassionate to the people around her.

“Being with the Vietnamese people for the past five days was a humbling experience and I believe it will inspire me and the other participants to continue making a difference, ” she said.

SOUL 2019 is the seventh international mission organised by the students of CUCMS.

It began with the Cambodia mission in 2013, Vietnam in 2014, Pekan Baru, Indonesia in 2015; Vientiane, Laos in 2016, Nepal in 2018 and Bangladesh last year.

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