Posted by Margaret Mason on Sep 01, 2021
The meeting was held on zoom. The chair was Ian Ballantine and the speaker was our member Paul Ferguson. Paul went as an observer when the Interplast Team went to Laos in February 2020. 
He gave a very succinct and informative presentation on Interplast and his observations in Laos. Paul was there for five days, although the team was in Laos for 2 weeks. Laos is approximately the same size as Victoria and has a population of 7.3 million people. The population is young (median age is 34 years old) and the life expectancy is 69 years. It is a very diverse country with 47 ethnic groups and 8 languages spoken. According to Paul, the people appear happy, friendly and contented. During the Vietnam war, 10% of the population in Laos was killed. There were 2 million bombs dropped and approximately one-third were unexploded. These are still being cleared to this day.
Paul then gave a profile of himself and then an overview of Interplast. Interplast is a not-for-profit organisation set up by the Royal Australian College of Surgeons. Rotary has been its partner and major sponsor since its inception in 1983. Rotary provides approximately 25% of its annual budget. The Interplast teams visit a total of 17 Asian Pacific countries to deliver its program of providing surgical expertise ( primarily in treating scarring as a result of burns ) as well as training and mentoring local medical teams.
The Interplast Team that went to Laos consisted of 2 plastic surgeons, an anaesthetist, 3 nurses and an occupational therapist. In the two weeks that they were there, the team conducted 165 consultations and performed 66 procedures. It was usually a 16 hours day and mealtimes are when debriefings were undertaken. As an observer, Paul described himself as a “gofer” and helped in whichever way he was requested. Paul summarised the success of such a program for him as affirmation of Rotary doing good, reset his personal humanity objective, connect with people and being exposed to a different culture. He regarded it as very positive and a once in a lifetime experience.
The link to Paul's video is here.
After Paul’s presentation, President Helen conducted the vote on the two proposals which have been circulated to members in the past two weeks. One proposal was to donate $10,000 to Rotary Foundation and the other proposal was to donate $5,000 to Australian Rotary Health specifically for Indigenous scholarships. Both proposals were agreed to unanimously.
Meeting concluded at 8.30 am. The Sergeant withheld his fines util a later meeting; so Watch Out!