When Dr. Vien Doan saw the atrocities of the Russia-Ukraine war on the news, he couldn’t stand by without offering his help.
So Doan organized a team of 18 doctors, nurses and volunteers that will head to the Poland-Ukraine border with medical supplies — and body bags — to help civilians caught amid the conflict. The group, which has members from the Inland Empire and across Southern California, leaves for its two-week trip Saturday, April 30.
“Being born and raised and escaped war, when I saw something as big as this, I need to do something about it,” said Doan, who lives in Riverside.
Doan, founder of Good Samaritan Medical and Dental Ministry, was prepared to go to the Poland-Ukraine border on his own.
But a team started forming when he brought up his solo mission to one of his pastors, Joseph Hobbs, at The Grove Community Church in Riverside.
In addition to Hobbs, the team includes:
- Dr. John Branch, a family-practice physician in Riverside since 1988, Grove Community Church member and Good Samaritan member.
- Dr. Stephen Hordynski, an obstetrics and gynecology physician in Redlands and a volunteer for Good Samaritan.
- Grace Doan, wife of Vien Doan.
Money for the trip came from The Grove and Sandals Church as well as from patients at Doan’s private family practice in Riverside and from his and his volunteers’ pockets.
“Money is still coming in,” said Hobbs, who declined to share a donation total.
Each person on the team donated about $2,000, but some raised additional funds of up to $4,000, Hobbs said. He said 100% of the money raised will go to help the Ukrainian people.
Because The Grove is sponsoring the trip, it contacted churches and organizations such as the Tesco and Korczowa refugee centers near the Ukraine-Poland border.
The money will be used to find long-term solutions like providing transportation, food and housing and medical assistance for Ukrainian people long after Doan’s team is gone, Hobbs said. About $20,000 will go to 40 pastors who are in the eastern war zones and for their communities.
The team prepared for its mission by talking to counselors about what members will be witnessing and the possibility that they could return with post-traumatic stress disorder.
“We need to be together as a team to talk through what we’re seeing and … be prepared,” Hobbs said.
For Doan, this mission won’t be his first — or last — to a war-torn country.
A native of Vietnam, he fled the war in April 1975 as a refugee, He was sponsored by an American family to live in Des Moines, Iowa.
“I want to go and share my love with them and let them know that God loves them as well during these difficult times,” said Doan, who was raised as a Buddhist but became a Christian once in the U.S.
Doan attended high school, college and medical school in Iowa, but his heart remained in Vietnam.
Through the Good Samaritan group, he traveled to Vietnam to help others.
Every year since that first visit, Doan and up to 100 volunteers, doctors and students — traveled to Vietnam to do surgeries and teach emergency medicine.
To ensure that the people in Vietnam had a clinic, Good Samaritan started building the Cao Bang Family Health Center, which is scheduled to be finished in October.
For the past two years, Doan and his team have canceled the trip because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“… When I came here … I decided that I wanted to do something to help Vietnam … to help the world through medicine,” Doan said. ” And so now, with the Ukraine situation coming up, I’ve decided to help with that as well.”
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