Young Malmy *adies, Chris Leggett and Bmy

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Young Malmy *adies, Chris Leggett and Bmy
Young Malmy *adies, Chris Leggett and Bmy
Meneety are off on an adventure for their
halidays, helping build futuras inffietnam.
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O THOSE OF US of a certain age, the mention of
Vietnam goes hand-in-hand with associations of
Australians being in a land where they werent wanted.
Forty years later, the Vietnamese people have moved on, and
are welcoming Australians who visit, not through any sense
of atonement, but a genuine interest in helping those less
fortunate than themselves.
Project Vietnam lnc (PVl) is a small, purely voluntary
organisation working out of the Sunshine Coast area. lts
vision is "to identify the health, education and special needs
of communities - to develop programs to improve people!
quality of lifel
Semi-retired Buderim couple, David and Claire Simpson,
have always been adventurous, community-minded
volunteers. They typify the members of PVl, co-ordinating
promotion and fundraising.
"Each March sees our annual migration/ says David.
Sunshine Coast builder, Tony Van Eoxmeer flies to Vietnam
two or three week before their arrival to purchase materials
and work with local tradesmen.
The Australians do all the rest, renovating school buildings
by Dale Jacobsen
and kindergartens, replacing roofing, knocking windows
into walls, and turning what was once dark damp buildings
into light airy space where children thrive.
While most of the volunteers are around 50. there
is a
drive
to attract young people. Chris Leggett and Bray Meneely,
Maleny mates from schooldays, are the newest recruits to
sign up for next yeart trip. Chris, an apprentice electrician
working for Craig Young Electrical in Landsborough, will be a
fully-qualified tradie by the time they head off. He was
convinced to give it a go by his boss, Craig, who manages to
make the trip every couple of years.
Chris enlisted Bray, a qualified carpenter who builds
houses in the Hinterland for his dad, Ross Meneely. "lt will be
an eye opener." says Chris, "but l'm sure it will be a good
experience. We'll get a holiday that's a bit different, and do
some goodl I asked if they will encourage others. "We'll wait
and see what it! like firsti said Bray.
At least half of the team have been to Vietnam multiple
times. "lt takes around 36 hours fior us to bond, and we bond
really well, says Claire. "Friendships are forged that will last a
lifetimej' Local children and adults join in the work party.
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Very few share a common language and, although there is
an interpreter on site, a lot can be achieved through smiles
and laughter.
I asked Claire and David was there any hint of'you owe us'
from the locals. Claire said that the children are too young to
have any hang-ups, and while there are some adults who are
of an age to understand, it doesnt seem to play a part in
their appre€iation.
"One old lady kept sidling up to me for a few days, smiling,
while I was painting shutters. I didnt speak Vietnamese and
she didnt speak English. Eventually
I
handed her
a
paintbrush, and she joined in, all smiles. The next day, she
invited me, through beckoning, into her tiny kitchen where
she made tea and handed me little bananas.'
PVI has been operating for 25 years. Every person pays
their own way. There are no administration costs, no wages.
Costs for each project - around 545,000 - are raised through
private donations, grants and two annual events. Each
project is vefied by The Peoples Aid Co-ordination
Committee of Vietnam (PACCOM) to ensure there are no
'back-handersi
Local Sunshine Coast and Hinterland people are always
forthcoming in support. ln February next year, two classicrock bands, The Foggs and The Slackos, will perform free of
charge at a musical afternoon in the Valdora Hall. Park Regis
Hotel, BMW, Bernados Noosa, Giddy and Grace from Maleny
and Get Wines Direct from Maroochydore have all
contributed prizes for a raffle.
Apart from the building team, Dr Gail Waterhouse, from
Bokarina, heads a team of doctort nurses, physios and
dietitians who provide medical equipment, health
education and bursarie: for local nurses. Gail was awarded
Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for her humanitarian
aid to the people of Vietnam in 2009.
A third arm of FVI raises funds to transport wheelchairs for
children who have lost limbs, many as a result of landmines.
Ihese chairs, provided by Wheelchairs for Kids lnc, cost
$*ffi=
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opposite page: Bray Meneely and Chils
Lqgett
Top: School drildren practidng their English telth Clalre Slmpson
Above: Volunteers Claire and David Simpmn
around $2,500
to freight, and
PVI ensures
secure
distribution; that they go to where they are needed.
I was curious why David, a Scotsman who once held the
post of Chieftain in the Caledonian Society in Saudi Arabia,
chose Vietnam to place his obvious energy. David said: "1 was
introduced to PVI by a sailing buddy. Del Morrison, who
writes formal grant submissions for the organisation. Her
enthusiasm was catching, besides. I know where every
penny will be spent, because it is our own money'i
Promoting such
a
small organisation (around
100
members) is more difficult than other worldwide charities.
They are keen to involve young people. "lt is a wonderful
chance to visit this part of the world under the safe umbrella
of a fun{oving crew. A terrific adventurel said Claire.
For further information, visit their
http:liprojectvaetnam.com
website:

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