Dr. Ted Taylor of Gold Beach examines a Vietnamese child while volunteering for Project HOPE. The Pilot/Submitted photo
Story by Alison Brandt
of Project Hope
When Alice Taylor was looking for volunteer opportunities earlier this year, she saw online that Project HOPE needed a midwife, a pediatrician and a photojournalist for a humanitarian mission in Vietnam.
Taylor, a certified nurse midwife from Gold Beach, thought, “This would be perfect.” It so happens that Alice’s husband, Dr. Laurence “Ted” Taylor, is a family medicine practitioner with many pediatric patients, and their son Will, 25, is a freelance writer and photojournalist.
They all applied and were accepted for Operation Pacific Angel 2012, an eight-day mission undertaken jointly by Project HOPE, the U.S. Air Force and the Vietnam People’s Armed Forces, which offered free medical care and health education to residents of Vietnam’s northern coastal province of Nghe An.
The Taylors arrived in Vinh City, Vietnam, on June 10. They began setting up a temporary medical clinic nearby, in the Xuan Lam Primary School.
“It entailed a lot of physical labor – lifting, cleaning, moving things around and setting up exam rooms,” Ted said. “Keep in mind this was in 100-105 degree heat.”
Alice added, “We saw more large spiders and geckos than you would ever believe. And the spiders jumped! Some of the Air Force people were real arachnophobes. So, it was a challenge.”
Despite the challenges, from the beginning, the whole experience was a real joy for the Taylors.
“The volunteers and the Vietnamese nationals worked incredibly well together as a team,” Ted said. “We had never experienced the level of teamwork that we did on this mission. It was overwhelmingly wonderful.”
For the next week, Ted and Alice provided medical care to hundreds of local residents, while Will documented the mission by taking more than 200 photographs. There were Vietnamese college students there to assist with translation.
According to the Taylors, the day-to-day volunteer activities were similar to what they typically did at home – except for the physical structure. Dr. Taylor treated everything from headaches to infectious diseases – the whole gamut of medicine.
“It is interesting to go halfway around the world and find that it is very similar to what I encounter at home,” Ted said. “The parents are concerned about their children’s health and want to know that everything is OK – just like here.”
Alice agreed with her husband about the similarities.
“Even though most of my patients were farmers who spent a lot of time bending over in rice paddies, I was amazed at how similar their problems were to the women I care for at home,” she said. “Because I saw lots of back pain, I started teaching some yoga and the response was overwhelming – instant relief and big smiles on their faces.”
In total, 5,400 people were provided with medical care during Operation Pacific Angel 2012.
The Taylors met many hundreds of Vietnamese people and described them as very sweet, gentle, intelligent and appreciative. Some of their Air Force colleagues stated that they found it hard to believe we had been at war with these people at one time.
“Through Operation Pacific Angel – the Air Force and Project HOPE, in our opinion, really did continue to build a bridge of peace and healing with the Vietnamese people,” Ted said.
Because of their experience with Project HOPE in Vietnam, Ted and Alice Taylor plan to do more international volunteer work in the future. Just last week, they attended a recruiting session in Portland for Doctors without Borders, another international aid organization.
The Taylors have two other sons. James, 23, is a recent college graduate with a passion for writing and music, and Max, 21, is a pre-med student.
Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is a global humanitarian aid organization headquartered in Virginia. The nonprofit was originally known for the SS Hope, the world’s first peacetime hospital ship, which operated from 1960-1974. Project HOPE now provides health education and humanitarian assistance in more than 35 countries.