Lending a hand - International Volunteers Day | Asia Pacific

Lending a hand - International Volunteers Day

Lending a hand - International Volunteers Day

Updated 5 December 2013, 13:53 AEDT

Sharing your skills and lending a helping hand - that's what International Volunteers Day is all about.

And it was with that in mind, that Australian-born Vu Huynh left Perth for Ho Chi Minh City almost two years ago, to volunteer his skills as a radiation therapy trainer at the Hoc Mai Medical Foundation.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Vu Huynh, volunteer, Hoc Mai Medical Foundation

HUYNH: I'm a radiation therapist. In Australia I work with a radiation encology department, pretty much working with cancer, treating cancer patients, planning cancer treatments and working in a multi-disciplinary team, so with doctors, medical physicists in a healthcare team.

So basically, what I'm doing over here (in Ho Chi Minh City) is pretty much that, but I'm more of a trainer so I'm using the skills that I have and passing on my skills to the Vietnamese people so that they can be better equipped to handle their patients and their cancer situation over here in Vietnam.

LAM: And you are at the Hoc Mai Medical Foundation, tell us a bit about that?

HUYNH: Yes part of the assignment is supported through also Hoc Mai Medical Foundation, a foundation under the University of Sydney, a non-profit foundation. It was established around ten years ago to work with just Vietnam to pretty much just improve medical education in Vietnam through a partnership of shared experience, shared skills and shared knowledge. And they work quite closely with AusAid or Australian volunteers for international development and go through many programs in exchange ... Vietnamese coming to Australia for scholarships, and also for example myself, me coming to Vietnam.

LAM: And of course, your training Vu was of an Australian nature (you were trained in Australia) - What are some of the skills do you find you've been sharing with your Vietnamese counterparts in Ho Chi Minh City?

HUYNH: Well initially when I started the assignment it was very technical and these assignments with Australian Volunteers for International Development are normally drawn up with very specific goals, with capacity development, a specific skill set that you actually share with your host organisation, which is in Ho Chi Minh City for me.

It's technical skills - so (for example) the correct positioning of the patient, recording of certain landmarks and certain positions to get the patients. So procedures to make the treatment as effective, safely and accurately as possible. However, as my time evolved here, it became more than just passing on skills and knowledge, it's passing on a lot of 'soft skills' too.

So for example, skills in team work, multi-disciplinary team work and leadership and how to actually implement something within the workplace, because you come across many, many different cultural differences that would be different to Australia and would be different to Vietnam. So I've had to approach those with a different angle to actually adapt to the situation, to try and put all the pieces together - how to effectively engage them to pretty much have good outcomes, yeah effective sustainable outcomes.

LAM: And Vu Huynh, you've been in Vietnam for two years now, what do you find rewarding about being there?

HUYNH: This is my first time away from Australia for such a long time and initially it is a big culture shock, and I was very homesick the first six months. But once I started to let everything down and once I started to open up and accept things the way they are, then something happened, it's like a transformation happened.

It's quite rewarding in the sense that you see the way people live differently, the way people work differently, you see different perspectives, your points of view that when you come here, they're not very black and white and they challenge you on all different levels. I've gone through so much personal development over here that I arguably probably wouldn't have ever been able to go through in Australia. And it's been an amazing experience.

LAM: So volunteering actually gives you something back?

HUYNH: Yes, yes definitely. It definitely gives something back yeah. It's really a mutual beneficial exchange yeah.

LAM: So Vu, how are you spending International Volunteers Day - has anyone baked you a cake?

HUYNH: (chuckles) No one's baked me a cake, but the Consul General here in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City, John McAnulty, he's graciously invited a bunch of us volunteers out to dinner tonight, so that should be a fun occasion, get-together, a bit of a chat.

And John's a really nice bloke, really down to earth and I really enjoy having a chat with John. It's always great to get together with other Australians and share our stories.

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