10 long hours back to Kunming city. We got caught up in 3 police roadblocks. Had lunch at a buffet restaurant that served MSG everything (not complaining because it tasted delicious). Playing Heads Up while on a moving bus. Had no idea how the driver is able to stay awake even though we were all going to doze off. Mountains mountains everywhere. Scenery was beautiful. Nearing the city, factories producing smog… lots of factories producing smog. Finally Kunming city.
We unloaded all our baggage and equipment at our apartments and headed off to meet our contact Diana and Martin. They brought us to a fantastic restaurant, which served delicious lion head meatballs, fish noodle soup, braised pork, and wheat tea (which looked like rat poop but still delicious nonetheless). And that was day 0 for the 2nd leg of our trip.
All of us headed down to Ming De primary school to begin what would be an amazing accomplishment by the SMSV team. As most of us were on our 1st medical mission trip with SMSV, it took us some time to properly organize ourselves. We split the group to perform different task, which included
1) General registration
2) Temperature taking
3) Skin and hair check
4) Oral examination
5) Height and weight
6) Eye sight
7) General examination
Accompanied by Nicolea’s parents, Dr Tan (Mom) and Dr Tan (Dad), the clinical year students were tasked with performing the general examinations while the rest of us was split performing the other tasks. Big Boss Ma’am Nicolea went around assigning us tasks and minimizing the bottlenecks. Despite the high number of students and the stench of the school toilet (which we unanimously called a glorified Long Kang) just 5 meters from where we were conducting our examinations, we persevered and screened every student diligently.
These were what we noticed examining all these kids.
1) They generally had very good overall health
2) A lot of them had really bad tooth decay
3) Some students didn’t even know they had really poor eye sight
4) Kindergarden kids are extremely cute
5) Older kids not so
6) Smoking is apparently allowed in schools as we saw some teachers smoking in the school courtyard
7) Many of them only bathed once a week
We concluded our health screening at Ming De primary school and headed immediately back to Happy Ark (our HQ) where we did our force prep for the 2nd half of the day, family visitation. We were once again split into smaller groups and assigned different families to visit. We were also tasked give them a bag of rice and some cooking condiments and to conduct general health screening procedures for the family. The family visits were a real eye opener for us. We saw families living in desolate conditions, where the whole family would be living in a cramped compacted space filled with clothes, cooking ware, toiletries, pales and books. Many of these families were really hospitable, giving us plenty of oranges, some even preparing whole meals for us. Unfortunately, many of these people also had medical conditions, which required medical attention. However, money was being a major social determinant of Health. They had difficulties visiting the local public hospitals even though the government subsidized treatments. Time was a limiting factor for us, as we really would have liked to follow up on their progress and ensure that they were compliant with treatment and medication. Our team still did all we could to advice these families on basic lifestyle changes in order to reduce the risk of future of co-morbidities.
We had lunch at a small restaurant close to Happy Ark. It was amazing how this restaurant could fully feed 20 people under 250 yuan (50 SGD). The food was seriously masterchef quality, uber delicious (might be the MSG, but I guess Male-Pattern-Baldness can settle itself later) :P
So we were back at Happy Ark after lunch to help clean up the place. Forgot to mention what Happy Ark was all about besides being our HQ in Kunming. Basically, Happy Ark is a community after school opened by a Malaysian couple that wanted to help out children of families in lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Volunteers from various universities offer their time to tutor these kids and ensure that they are catching up with their school work. The school also provides a basic library and playroom for the primary school kids. Last but not least, they have a nice toilet as well.
So we began the clean up process of the classrooms at Happy Ark. The inner Filipino of Amos was unleashed and he began mopping up the floors of Happy Ark while Reginald cleaned the ceilings. Sarah (looks like a filipino) took care of the little kids while the rest of the crew wiped the tables and chairs.
We ended off the day with 1 more family visitation and its off to a Korean restaurant to have our dinner.
Today we headed off to Ming Zhi primary school to do a general health screening on the kids. Taking the experience from the previous day, we were able to quickly set up the stations. There was a stark improvement in efficiency as compared to the previous day and the kids were able to get their health screening done very quickly. At 11pm we bid goodbye to Nicolea’s parents, Sathis and YiWei as they were heading back to Singapore. It was awesome having these wonderful people in our trip.
In the afternoon, Nicolea was tasked with visiting the family of 1 of the students at Happy Ark. This family had 6 children cramped up in a small room. The sad part of it was that the mother was mentally retarded and deaf, and she had to take care of her 6 children, 1 of which was also mentally retarded and deaf. We had to go through her young daughter in order to find out the family situation. There was little we could except giving the packet of rice and other foodstuff.
The principal of Ming Zhi school was kind enough to treat us to lunch at a local restaurant. So on our plates we had crispy chili shrimp, century egg, some ma la soup, some fish soup that tasted funny, corn kernels and peas, peanuts, and other stuff.
In the afternoon we finished up our work at Ming Zhi and headed back to Happy Ark where most of us were on tutoring duty, assisting the students in their homework. While some of us gave up on giving kids due to their poor command of mandarin, others persevered (especially Ee Jie, who tried his best teaching the kids although language was a clear barrier). We also met a Brazilian residing in Kunming who was volunteering at Happy Ark!
And off to dinner to a restaurant near our guesthouse.
Our final full day at Kunming. This time we went to Zhang Hong ( I think this is the name) primary school to screen the schools kids. Same ol’ process of screening once again, and I think we were super efficient this time round.
We had our lunch and did our final health screening back at Ming De primary school (from day 1). While we were doing our health screening, apparently they were having some music singing competition as well. Each class had to sing a Chinese song (not too sure whether it was a communist song) and the principal was the judge. So while we were auscultating the children’s chest, the kids were singing their songs with great conviction and pride, only seen in Singapore during National Day.
We headed back to Happy Ark and had a final debriefing by Diana and Martin. All in all, in 3 days we were able to screen 1612 kids in total (AMAZING!!!!). So here are some take away pointers from the 2nd leg of our trip.
1) In different settings, the predominant morbidity amongst the general population would be different
2) Tooth decay is really really very common amongst kids
3) Health education is really important. Start teaching while they are still young
4) Lifestyle changes (primary prevention) is the most effective way of reducing morbidity rates
5) Tonsillitis is a very common condition amongst kids
6) Be sensitive when visiting a family of another culture
7) We should be grateful for the luxuries that we have in life
8) Don’t put your stations 5m in front of the school toilet, the stench would burn off your nose hair
9) Kindergarden kids are really cute but really terrifying sometimes
So we ended our trip officially by going to a KTV lounge, singing our hearts out and celebrating Wong Jia Hao’s birthday when it hit midnight (11/12/14), happy birthday Bossman! Although the trip had officially come to an end, doesn’t mean the blog posts haveJ so stay tuned for more blog post!
All in all this was a really memorable trip J