The History of MSAVLC
The Medical Aid Committee for Vietnam, the forerunner of Medical and Scientific Aid for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, was formed in 1965 following the visit to Hanoi of a London doctor, Dr Joan McMichael. This was at the beginning of the Vietnam War, and whilst she was there Joan learned of the terrific suffering of the people as a consequence of shortage of medicines and surgical equipment. She contacted as many humanitarian doctors and other individuals as she could, and in June 1965, at a meeting in the House of Commons, MACV was established.
Within a few weeks, more than 100 persons prominent in academia, the church, medicine, politics, the arts and the trade unions, became sponsors. Lord Boyd Orr OM, FRS, became the first president, with Professor Dorothy Hodgkin OM, FRS as Vice-President. John Rankin MP was elected chairman of the Executive Committee, with Renee Short MP as Vice-Chair and Dr Joan McMichael became the Honorary Secretary. Campaigns and fund-raising activities included artistic performances, appeals and art exhibitions. Throughout the 1960’s and 1970’s they provided funding for many projects to aid the people of Vietnam. At one point, MACV ran a blood donation campaign, and by the end of 1971, a total of 6,567 pints of blood had been flown to those who needed it.
Becoming a Registered Charity
In the 1960’s MACV maintained a small office in London and employed a full-time secretary. It became a charity registered with the Charity Commission in 1967 (no. 252906) and a constitution was written that same year. In 1979, it was suggested that the constitution be revised to reflect the fact that aid was also being given to Laos and Kampuchea, as Cambodia was then known, and Medical and Scientific Aid for Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia came into being.
1980 To Today.
Since 1980, the charity has been run exclusively by volunteers who have raised many hundreds of thousands of pounds to fund projects throughout Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. Initially the charity sent mainly medical drugs and equipment to hospitals, and charitable funding reached a peak in 1993 when over £115,000 was sent, much of it to provide limbs for land-mine victims.
Following the retirement of Dr Joan McMichael in 1987, Dr Madeleine Sharp took over as Honorary Secretary until 2009. During her tenure the charity funded a variety of projects including:
- A continuing programme of aid to help those affected by Agent Orange, the toxic chemical dropped by American planes during Vietnam’s war.
- The Mother and Child Campaign which funded maternity services in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam and included the provision of 40 binocular microscopes for cervical screening.
- The Jaipur Limb Project where locally-made artificial limbs were fitted to victims of the many land-mines and unexploded ordinances which were left following the conflicts in the 1960’s and 70’s.
- The Hare-Lip and Cleft-Palate campaign where many children in Thanh Hoa Province in Vietnam were given this life-changing operation.
- Continuing support for the British Friendship Hospital in Ky Anh in central Vietnam. This has included provision of medicines and medical equipment, ambulances, and beds, and the construction of the Joan McMichael-Askins Paediatric Centre. More recently the charity has supplied the hospital with equipment for a Paediatric Intensive Care Unit, funded by the late Professor Grant Lathe.
- A £200,000 campaign to prevent trachoma and blindness in children in Thanh Hoa Province in Vietnam.
- An audiology and ear health project in Pakse, in southern Laos.
- Provision of incubators, paediatric equipment and eye-surgery microscopes at Ha Tinh General Hospital.
- A program of aid to provide healthcare, medical screening and operations, and to support a breakfast club, run by Helping Hands in rural Cambodia.
- A First Aid Project providing medical aid to children living and working on Stung Meanchey Municipal Dump in Phnom Penh.
The charity is now run by a small group of Trustees who raise funds and decide upon their disbursement to the charity’s projects in South-East Asia. Trustees make regular visits to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to monitor spending and evaluate the projects. Mary Lidgard is the Honorary Secretary.
Keeping in Touch
The charity’s supporters are kept in touch through the publication of a quarterly ‘Bulletin’ and are invited to attend the Annual General Meeting which is usually held in the spring. For many years the AGM was held at the House of Commons, but latterly it has been hosted by the Vietnamese Ambassador at the Embassy in London. Over the years the editor of the ‘Bulletin’ has been Dr Joan McMichael, Professor Ted Shellard, Margaret Methley and Peter Lacy. The present editor is Peter Lidgard. It is still posted quarterly to about 200 supporters, but an increasing number are now sent by email. Any donation, no matter how small, to help the charity with its work, means that, if requested the donor’s name may be added to the mailing list, and the Bulletins can then be sent, free of charge.