May 2012 - Page 2 of 2 - Narcissism is Necessary

Archive | May, 2012

Hunger No More in Vietnam.

Many years ago when I was in college, I participated in one of World Vision Malaysia’s famous 30-Hour Famine events. At that time, my knowledge of hunger issues was sparse at best and was limited to pictures of emaciated African children covered in flies.

It wasn’t nice to know that there were kids starving on the other side of the planet but it wasn’t that difficult to feel indifferent either. Living in Kuala Lumpur, constantly surrounded by never-ending supply of delicious, calorie-laden food – it really was quite easy to push grand issue like global hunger to the back of my mind.

In fact, I was only motivated to fast for 30 hours for some vanity driven weight loss. Not because I felt sorry for skinny, bloated bellied children. Sorry.

A few weeks ago, I followed World Vision Malaysia to Vietnam to check out the communes that are affected by poverty & hunger. Again, instead of anything remotely gracious, I was motivated by a free trip to Vietnam.

Wow, what a major a-hole; me.

Lo & behold, I was exposed to situations of poverty & hunger that I never thought existed. It was truly an eye-opening experience. This time, instead of just glancing pass pictures or visuals in the idiot box, I was actually there – seeing, smelling and feeling their lives.

I was quite affected by what I saw, rendering me in a constant struggle between guilt and gratitude.

The first family we visited lived at a bottom of a steep hill in the Tan Mai commune, 5 hours drive from Hanoi. The family consists of Toan, both his parents, his younger brother, Tinh and grandmother.

# – Toan and his family.

We had to walk down the precarious “steps” to reach the house. Several times, some of us slipped and only managed to stay alive by holding on to some small shrubs. After what seemed like an eternity, we reached the house.

# – Scary walking down a steep hill.

The house was quite spacious but there was no floor – just dirt. The wooden walls were suspended from the ground so in the rainy season, it can get pretty nasty.

# – The floor is really the soil.

Toan’s parents are both farmers, earning about RM2800 a YEAR from selling bamboos, maize and cassava!

Recently, Tinh, the baby brother suffered from muscle inflammation and had to be treated at the hospital. Luckily, the family managed to borrow about RM3000 from relatives for surgery fees.

How they’re going to repay 1 year worth of income is beyond me :(

# – Baby Tinh and his mummy.

Tinh’s muscles are okay now, but his bones are still not joined properly so he still couldn’t walk. The family would need more money to treat his leg.

After that, we went to check out their family farm. I did not expect it to be on the side of a freaking hill.

There was no walking path, no safety rope, nothing, it was scary. I only made it half way up because I knew if I managed to reach the top I would need a helicopter to bring me back down later on.

I just couldn’t walk back down without panicking. I can’t imagine how it’s like in the rainy season.

# – The farm atop a hill.

It’s heart-breaking to know that Toan and Tinh’s parents have to risk their lives everyday just to go to the farm just so they could earn a meagre RM2800 every year. It’s ridiculous but it’s their reality.

The next day, we visited Trang and her family. Her father’s whereabout was a mystery and all she has now are her mother and maternal grandparents. Trang’s mother is suffering from a mysterious eye disease which has rendered her almost blind. Her grandfather, on the other hand is completely blind.

# – Little Trang and her family.

Of the entire trip, seeing Trang’s family was the most gut wrenching. They live in a little hut by a river, which floods up in the rainy season. Half the family is in ill health (mother and grandfather) and the other half either too young (Trang) or too old (grandmother).

Everyday, they eat a little bit of rice and mostly bamboo shoots. Having fish would be considered as a good day.

# – The hut by the river they call home.

# – Tarp for walls.

When we asked Trang what she wants to be when she grows up…she said doctor. We asked her why, she shyly said she wanted to cure her mother, grandfather and help people in the village. I almost burst into tears.

Thankfully, Trang gets to go to school as her grandfather gets paid pension of about RM140 every month. The entire family practically relies on his pension.

Both these families are examples of the people affected by hunger & poverty in Vietnam. Some areas have poverty rate of up to 85%, it is unnerving!

World Vision Vietnam first identifies these areas and then sets up ADP (Area Development Program), which will then provide long term community development programmes.

For instance, World Vision drills wells, protects water sources and installs piping systems so that these communities can have access to clean water and good sanitation systems.

# – A view of an advanced water filtration system installed at a pre-school with donations raised by World Vision Korea.

World Vision also provides prenatal and natal care, children’s vaccination and treatment, HIV/AIDS awareness and counseling sessions and training for health workers & parents to recognise and deal with illnesses.

# – Parents getting their children weighed at a Health Station set up by the government with help from World Vision.

# – Young mothers learning about diarrhoea prevention in nutrition club.

Besides that, seeds, tools and training are provided to the community by World Vision so that they can secure its own food supply.

By teaching adults how to earn a stable income through provision of micro loans and income generating skills training, their children get to stay in school and further their education. In terms of education, World Vision helps the communities to build schools and train teachers.

# – A typical school classroom in rural Vietnam (in fact almost 100% of the children get to go to school).

Not only all these programmes help these communities to be self-sufficients, death rates from diseases and impoverishment can be drastically cut down. We had the opportunity to visit a family that has benefited from these long term community development programmes.

# – Baby Hoa with her mother, Sen and father, Thanh. They are one of a few “pilot families” who participated in community development programmes.

Hoa now weighs 9kg thanks to her mother’s Sen diligent application of nutrition knowledge she learnt through World Vision provided training and classes. Their
household income has also increased from RM3000 a year to about RM6000 a year as Thanh, the father took part in training courses on livelihood and economic development.

He learnt to plant rice and maize in a more effective way, and also learnt how to treat diseases of the crops. The family is also raising pigs which they have bred from a single pig gifted by World Vision.

I hope families like Toan’s and Trang’s one day will enjoy self-sufficiency and comforts such as Hoa’s. Judging from the passion and dedication of World Vision, I have no doubt they will benefit from all the programmes and assistance.

You too can contribute by doing either the following:

  • Join the 30-Hour Famine – The 30-Hour Famine is a global movement against hunger and poverty, the event I mentioned earlier which requires fasting for 30 hours. By the way, this year’s theme is “Hunger No More” and it will be held on 5th August 2012 and will be attended by Lee Hom!!!!!
  • Sponsor a Child – Help a child by contributing a minimum amount to help develop and create a better future for the children, families and communities.
  • Make a Donation – Your gift will be used to provide assistance and relief in areas where the need is greatest.
  • Volunteer – Spare some time, talent and energy to change the lives of children and families in need.
  • Thank you World Vision Malaysia for opening up my eyes.

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    My Lasik surgery experience in Optimax.

    Following my previous post on why I decided to laser my eyes, now I’m going to blog about my experience at Optimax Eye Specialist, TTDI.

    I decided on going with Optimax due to three reasons, (1) friends who have had good experience there (2) good online opinions (3) 100% safety rate.

    After making one phone call to find out more about the procedures that they provide, I found reason number (4) – incredibly professional and knowledgeable customer service.

    Before going through with the surgery, one must undergo a full eye check-up to determine whether his or her eyes are suited for the procedure.

    I scheduled my full eye check-up appointment on the day after coming back from Pulau Weh.

    I arrived at Optimax in Bangunan AHP, Taman Tun Dr Ismail in the morning with a bundle of nerves in my belly. I was worried that I might not be a suitable candidate for Lasik as I neurotically suspected that I might have very thin corneas. Don’t ask.

    # – Bangunan AHP.

    Optimax occupies a large portion of the building’s ground floor.

    There was an eye specialist clinic operated by Dr. Chuah Kay Leong for various eye treatments as well as a dedicated centre for eye examination and Lasik.

    # – Optimax.

    # – The reception area.

    I was introduced to a friendly optometrist who conducted all my tests. First, he gave me eye drops which numbed my eyeballs & dilated my pupils.

    As dramatic as that sounded, it was nothing of that sort…my eyeballs didn’t roll uncontrollably.

    The eye drops will cause one’s vision to blur temporarily, so please do arrange someone to pick you up after the check-up as you won’t be able to drive.

    # – Getting the eye drops.

    Next, I was led to a room with several machines. Those 4 or 5 machines checked for things like eyeball size, pupil size, eye health, eye pressure & corneal thickness.

    # – I believe this one was to see the size of my pupil. Apparently I have pupils that are above average in size…about 7mm in width each.

    Next, my eyesight was checked. It is not much different from the kind of eye check you get at optical shops before buying prescription glasses.

    # – Getting my eyesight checked. I have forgotten my eye power (sorry, bad with numbers) but I believe I was about 200 myopic with about 150 astig on both eyes.

    All the check-ups took about 1.5 hours. Then it was time for counselling.

    During the counselling session, the benefits and risks of every procedure were explained very carefully.

    It was during this counselling session that I also I learned about customised Lasik procedures and standard Lasik procedures.

    The best analogy to describe the difference between the two is this; custom Lasik is like buying a tailored, bespoke dress while standard Lasik procedure is like walking into a shop and choosing the dress from the shelve that fits you best. And yes, of course there’s price difference.

    # – During the counselling session.

    I also learned that everyone should take the Comprehensive Eye Examination annually. With the examination, apart from finding out one’s Lasik Suitability; it is also a thorough eye health examination to check on the healthiness of the eyes.

    In fact, WHO recommends doing the Comprehensive Eye Examination regularly as a prevention measure against vision impairment and blindness. Nobody really knows if he or she is suffering from serious eye diseases like Glaucoma, Diabetic Retinopathy and Cataract until it’s too late :(

    Anyway, at the end of the counseling session, we narrowed down to 2 surgery options to correct my vision; the Custom All Laser Lasik & Custom Epi Lasik.

    Since the Custom Epi Lasik has a longer recovery period due to removal of cornea epithelium (requiring time to grow back) and is suited for people who are extremely active in contact sports or have thinner corneas, I opted for the former – Custom All Laser Lasik, as it is the fastest, safest, and most accurate.

    At this point, if you still need time to consider about the surgery after the full eye check-up, you could go home already.

    However, I chose to get surgery done right away as Optimax is the only centre that can perform treatment on dilated eyes the same day.

    Yes, I couldn’t wait to ditch my glasses!

    No point going back another day. I want to get it done and over with on the same day.

    # – A nurse helped me put my Smurf suit on.

    Surprisingly, at that point I was no longer nervous. I think my excitement about having clear vision totally outweighed my fears.

    The counselling session really helped a lot too in understanding what I was going to put myself through. My doctor was Dr. Stephen Chung.

    A quick googling revealed that he has performed the highest number of Lasik procedures in South East Asia. I was in excellent hands.

    # – Dr. Chung explaining to me what he’s going to do and what to expect in the surgery room. I looked freaked out but I wasn’t. That’s how my face is like whenever I’m concentrating.

    A nurse gave me a couple more numbing eye drops. Then, I was led into the surgery room.

    Sorry, I didn’t have any picture taken so I will try my best to describe my experience inside.

    There were two laser machines in the room. They looked kind of like MRI machines, you know with a flat bed and a machine attached to the end.

    The first machine is for creating a flap on the cornea. I lied down and positioned my head under the machine.

    My one eye was closed and my other eye could see was a ring of light, illustrated as best as I could below:

    # – The ring of light.

    I was told by Dr. Chung to look straight into the middle of the ring and then he put something down onto my eye, I believe it was some kind of clamp to stop it from moving.

    Then I was told to relax my eye. During the session, my vision in that eye became blur and sometimes colourful. I also felt some sensations in the eye but no pain at any point.

    Within minutes, it was done. Next, to the other eye. Same experience, blurry colourful vision, some sensations but no pain.

    After that, a nurse helped me to get up and walked several steps to the 2nd machine. This was the machine that would repair my eyesight.

    I lied down and positioned my head under the machine. One eye was closed and what the other eye could see was this:

    # – Green light.

    Dr. Chung told me to look into the middle of the patch of green light, which I obediently did until he told me to relax my eyes. Like the previous machine, a sort of clamp was also put on to restrict my eye movement.

    During this time, my vision turned quite colourful. Kind of like seeing someone vigorously using the Microsoft Paint spray-paint brush. Again, absolutely no pain, just feelings of having your eye touched, that’s about it.

    I was also expecting to smell something like burning flesh but I am happy to inform you that I smelled no such thing. In fact, I didn’t smell anything at all!

    It was all done within 15 minutes. Gareth who was waiting for me outside was also surprised at how quick it was.

    I walked out of surgery room and already I could see further than before. Only it was like looking out of a speckled window or noisy filter.

    I was given a bag filled with antibiotic eyedrop (every 4 hours for a week), eyedrops (every 2 hours for a week), eye shields (to be worn during sleep), painkillers (just in case but I didn’t need it) and after care instructions.

    I thanked Dr. Chung, and that’s it. Done.

    I got home by 5pm, ate a McDonald’s apple pie, put on the eye shields and then hit the sack.

    I woke up at around 3am finding Gareth watching TV in our living room. My eyes felt a little sore but I could make out his features all the way from our kitchen.

    Then, we both skipped out of the house and started reading out car number plates all the way down our street. Without my glasses.

    I was in disbelief. It felt AMAZING!

    Next post will be about my recovery process and how getting Lasik has changed my life :)

    Optimax Eye Specialist,
    Unit 2-2-1, Bangunan AHP,
    Jalan Tun Mohd Fuad 3,
    Taman Tun Dr. Ismail,
    60000 Kuala Lumpur.
    Tel : 603-7722 3177 Fax : 603-7726 0207
    GPS : N03° 08.466′ E 101° 37.710′

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