To Nepal, with love

We caught up with Dr Tan Chi Chiu on his personal experience in Nepal, where he was deployed to, following the Nepal earthquake that struck on 25 April.

Dr Tan Chi Chiu is a Gastroenterologist Consultant and Physician at Gleneagles Medical Centre. He was deployed to Nepal on a medical relief mission from 1 to 8 May, just six months after the birth of his younger daughter. This would not have been possible without the strong support of his wife, Dr Wee Li Ann, a general practitioner.

What was your wife’s reaction when you told her you would like to participate on the medical relief mission to Nepal?
My wife was supportive. Before we got married, my wife was deployed in a medical relief mission that I led to Sri Lanka, in 2005. This was organised by the Parkway Group Healthcare. From her own experience in Sri Lanka, she knew what we would do on the ground, but of course she was still concerned. When our younger daughter was six-month old, we had the same discussions. Again, she said, 'Go, this is what you do.' She knows that this was the way I contributed to the world. She understood that I could take care of myself.

My wife's support sets an example to our children that life is not to be lived cosseted. If one has the capabilities to serve humanity, one should do so even at the cost of personal comfort and some risk.

If she had stopped me, my six-year-old elder daughter would feel that her father did not want to help in a disaster area because of the lack of security at home.

What in your opinion, makes good disaster relief programmes?
My clear conviction is that good disaster relief programmes are done in collaboration with local organisations. The Red Cross Movement has a marvelous advantage because the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) collaborates with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) and a local National Society to carry out the relief efforts.
Nepal was an example of how this can go well. My team was not very well equipped logistically. On the other hand, the Qatari Red Crescent came with field hospital tents and enough supplies to last for three months. However, they had only 12 people with them. It was fortuitous that through good communications and coordination with the IFRC and Nepal Red Cross, our teams collaborated successfully.

Not only were there very good people in the management team, but also on the board. They all have their hearts at the right places. The Red Cross has acquired a lot of experience in both disaster and non-disaster situations over many decades. I'm encouraged by that potential and would love to continue working with SRC to do even better.

What are your aspirations for your daughters?
I want my daughters to do humanitarian work when they grow up because it will develop them in life, in terms of character and leadership skills.

Story by Stephanie Gascon, Volunteer
Photos by Ashley Tan, Volunteer