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Up-close With Tan Ye Ping On His Earthquake Relief Mission to Haiti

On Monday, 8 Feb 2010, Mr Loh Hoon Sun and Mr Paul Chia interviewed Mr Tan Ye Ping at the Tanglin Club Singapore on his recent Mission Relief Trip to Haiti.

From left: Mr Paul Chia, Mr Tan Ye Ping and Mr Loh Hoon Sun

Mr Tan, 39, a graduate in Meteorology and Oceanography from Flinders University, is a trained SAF medical orderly and an active member of the Australian Alumni Singapore (AAS). He was also a member of the Working Committee of the Australian Alumni International Convention (AUIAC) 2008 held in Singapore.

Mr Tan was a member of the CityCare medical relief team which comprised 2 doctors, 3 nurses and 3 relief workers who set up a medical post at Carrefour in Port-au-Prince following the 7.0-magnitude Haiti earthquake disaster that occurred on 12 January 2010. CityCare is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting volunteerism and community service.

In the first 5 days since the setting up of the medical post on 18 January 2010, the medical relief team treated about 400 patients. With no electricity, lighting and poor ventilation, the team had to ward off flies and manage an increasingly overcrowded clinic. A typical day’s work was from 9 am to 6 pm and Mr Tan’s work included all facets of nursing activities, including assisting 2 doctors, scheduling and logistics operations of the patients, managing the clinic, preparing medical instrumentation and documenting particulars of patients.

It was such a fulfilling mission and a life-changing experience for him that he would readily volunteer again if given another such opportunity. Here are excerpts of the interview Mr Loh Hoon Sun, President of AAS, and Mr Paul Chia, AAS Committee, had with Mr Tan.

Q&A with Mr Tan Ye Ping – Earthquake Relief Mission to Haiti
1. What prompted you to go to go to Haiti after you heard about the earthquake in Haiti?

Ans:
I am always keen to do some humanitarian work and here was an opportunity to get involved in this earthquake relief mission. I received a call for volunteers and I offered myself.

2. Are you a medical doctor?

Ans:
No, but I was trained as a medic during my National Service and that came in handy in discharging my nursing responsibilities with the relief team.

3. Please share with us your personal experience.

Ans:
It was not total chaos as had been reported by some but some of the destruction was quite bad. I wished that we could do a bit more to help after seeing some of the patients that we have treated during my 8-day stay in Haiti.

4. What is your current profession?

Ans:
I am an Administrative Assistant for an event management company.

5. How many patients or victims have you helped in your stay in Haiti?

Ans:
As a member of the medical team, we saw 205 patients (from few-day-old babies to the elderly) in the first 3 days. The medical post went through 529 cases in the first 5 days.

6. Who helped finance your relief trip and how did you find your way to the earthquake zone so quickly?

Ans:
I volunteered as a member of the CityCare team and all the expenses were covered by CityCare. We had been in contact with a church pastor in Haiti and that made it easier for us to travel to the disaster zone and set up a medical base.

7. Given the shortage of food and medical supplies, did you have to go without food and medical supplies during your stay in Haiti?

Ans:
No, we brought our own food and medical supplies when we crossed the border into Haiti from Santo Domingo. All our supplies were purchased in Santo Domingo and they lasted throughout our stay in Haiti. We also received food and medical supplies from the next team that came.

8. Would you encourage AAS members to take up the challenge of doing relief work in future disasters and how could AAS assist?

Ans:
Yes, if there is a need, it would be good if we can rally the support of AAS members and network groups to be involved in humanitarian work. One of the things AAS could do is to be prepared and compile a list of volunteers. Linking up with a relief organisation such as CityCare would also be an effective way of tapping resources.

9. How do you feel about this humanitarian work? You risked your life in a country which you had never visited or heard about.

Ans:
I have read about the country and the people and have some general knowledge. I just wanted to offer some help to the people of Haiti. The people of Haiti were very grateful that we were there to help. My first impression was that they are very friendly and very helpful. We got very close to most of the translators who assisted us and we were able to converse between Creole (local colloquial), French (National Language) and English.

10. What medical supplies or food did you provide?

Ans:
We did not provide food. We only provided medication and treatment such as wound cleaning, dressing, stitching and minor surgical amputation. Initially, medical supplies were limited but from Day 3, we were better equipped and were able to provide anaesthetic, for example. We were not able to treat serious cases which we referred to the local hospitals.

11. What was a major constraint that your team first encountered?

Ans:
Our capacity to take on the maximum number of patients was determined by daylight due to the lack of electric power at the medical post. It was only from Day 3 when we managed to install some lights using lead-acid batteries that we were able to increase our caseload.

 

Report by: Paul Chia

11. What was a major constraint that your team first encountered?

Ans:
Our capacity to take on the maximum number of patients was determined by daylight due to the lack of electric power at the medical post. It was only from Day 3 when we managed to install some lights using lead-acid batteries that we were able to increase our caseload.

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