Local doctor makes a difference in Vanuatu

A recent medical missionary trip to help the less fortunate in Vanuatu turned out to be a two-way blessing for local Doctor Lawrence Tay.

While he approached the trip with the aim of helping others by offering his expertise and services to those who do not have access to regular health checks, the 35-year-old father of three said he returned to Australia feeling as though he had received more than he offered.   

"I felt like I gained more than what I gave — by the whole experience and seeing that people actually live happy when they have so little — it had a real impact on me.''

Dr Tay said when the opportunity to be a part of the medical mission through a Christian organisation called Care Ministry International arose, he was keen to jump on board.

Joining a team of 31 others from Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, New Zealand and Taiwan, Dr Tay was one of five doctors to make the trip.

The rest of the team consisted of seven dentists, five pharmacists, a physiotherapist, an acupuncturist and a number of administrative assistants.

"It was a very good team to work with — they were all very enthusiastic,'' Dr Tay said.

Upon the team members' arrival at Port Vila, Vanuatu, they set up a number of tents from which they operated for 10 days.

"We didn’t have any facility, like a medical centre or anything, there was just a field where we put a platform and some tents with seats for the people while they waited, then we put some chairs and tables around for us to work at,'' Dr Tay said.

During the course of the 10-day trip, the team provided dental and medical services for 1818 people.

While he offered his services to the multitudes who gathered, Dr Tay said he was taken aback by the locals’ outlook on life despite owning only the bare essentials.

"They live very basic and very simple lives,'' he said.

"One thing that I realised is that they don’t have a lot, but they are very content and very happy.

"What I learnt from them is to appreciate what you have.''

Dr Tay said he believed Australians often took things for granted and the trip had renewed his sense of gratitude for how lucky we really are.

"Sometimes I feel we are quite self-centred in a lot of our thinking — we can complain about everything, about our government, politics, how bad this and that is, but if we compare ourselves to many other countries, we are in a very good position.''

He said for the locals in Port Vila, seeing a doctor was expensive and was almost unheard of for most.

"The cost of them seeing a doctor is similar to the cost of us seeing a doctor here, but their daily wage is so much less, so it might be a week’s wage to see a doctor for them.''

Since settling back into life as a doctor at Kyabram Regional Clinic, Dr Tay said he would not forget the eye-opening trip.

"It was a very rewarding experience.''

He said regardless of an individual’s experience in any career, he urged them to consider making a trip that would allow them to contribute to helping people of another culture who were less fortunate than we are in Australia.

"I want to encourage people to participate in any organisation that offers similar things,'' Dr Tay said.