Dr Joanne Wansa (NSW)

Mission: Nghi Thuan field trip 2016

“I have met the most amazing and humble and generous people. I have made friends for life.”

Joane WansaSoooo… My name is Joanne Wansa, I’m a dentist born and bred in Sydney Australia. Campsie, precisely. I actually have my dental practice in Campsie, bought it off my family dentist of 30 years. I’m pretty much all about family and community. I believe that everyone deserves the best. It all stems back from my own story: I am first generation Australian Lebanese, so like many of the Vietnamese in Australia I can relate to the struggles of parents and relatives migrating and starting from scratch in a foreign country. I like to pay it back. I feel that I was lucky to be born in Australia, educated here and to be in a great position to help others.

I fell in love with volunteering on my first mission to the Philippines in 2014 and want to help as much as I can wherever I can.

My trip to the village of Nghi Thuan in Vietnam this August was my 3rd overseas volunteer mission trip. I remember sitting in Pampachiri in the mountains of Peru on my 2nd volunteer trip in October 2015 and being asked by Dr Thao Doan if I would go with her to her motherland Vietnam in 2016. I signed up then and there; without even knowing about AVCF. Was so excited to find out that another of the peru team Dr Jessica Quach was coming too! 3 Aussie dentists from Sydney, Brisbane and Perth met in Peru in 2015 were to reunite in Vietnam in 2016.

I am now honoured to be part of AVCF. I have met the most amazing and humble and generous people. I have made friends for life. I am grateful to the organisation for the hard work that goes on behind the scenes, the planning, the bureaucratic paper trail, the logistics of communication, accommodation, transport, food, fundraisers…

I recall the Fundraiser back in mid 2016 where 2 young dentists remarked that I looked very familiar to them… Turns out that back in 2014 we sat at the same table at a dental lecture night in Sydney and I had recounted the stories of my Phillipines mission to Dr Wensy Leung and Dr Yasi Gu. Fast forward two years and these remarkable ladies and I were going on mission together.

Add to that the impressionable Dr Phuoc Vo, my big brother, who took me under his wing and called me ‘little sister’. The most powerful woman I have met Mrs Thao Therese Thanh Nguyen, the whirlwind who organised the whole trip to the infinite detail. Dr Tai Nguyen who co-ordinated our dental team across Australia from Perth. The whole team of 35 Aussies were amazing.

The actual worksite was incredible. The Saigon Dental Team are a well tuned and well conditioned unit. They were seamless in their setup. Despite language barriers, heat and humidity, electrical shortages the dental team were able to churn through over 1000 patients. That is actually quite amazing in hindsight.

Praise needs to be heaped on the assistants; especially Ms Natalie Jones, Ms Yasmin Alvisio and Ms Darin Ya. They are literally our right hand, we can not function without them.

Vietnam you were beautiful, humble, chaotic, fun, hot and above all you felt like home, the people felt like family, I felt like I was part of the community of Nghi Thuan. I hope I left a small imprint on you like you have on me… well I did gift all the kids Bulldogs stickers and balls and teddies!!!


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