Pieter van den Hombergh is a member of MCNV’s Supervisory Board, since 2016. After a brief flirtation with MCNV as a student in 1968, he became a tropical doctor and worked in Tanzania and Kenya. Later, as a family doctor in Almere city, he also remained active for Africa. At the end of 2018 he visited Vietnam and Laos on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of MCNV.
“I had not been in Vietnam since 1995, when there were still mainly bicycles in Hanoi. MCNV’s 50th anniversary was a great opportunity to visit Laos and Vietnam and I decided to take a holiday trip there together with my wife and some relatives. We cycled from the old Laotian capital Luang Prabang all the way to Vientiane and from there we took a plane to Vietnam. Laos had always been a mysterious distant land for me. It is a poor country but it is rich in culture. A country with very charming people and in the MCNV office that was no different. LEARN and Canteen are the MCNV projects in Laos, LEARN conducts research into nutrition and mother & child care. The Laos government is eager for health data in order to develop better policies, and the first LEARN reports have been greatly appreciated. A very nice project that leads to many contacts back and forth with VU and Wageningen and to exchanging of students.
The 50th anniversary ceremony of MCNV in Hanoi was a big success. For the fourth time already, MCNV received the Medal of Friendship from the president of Vietnam, presented by Mr. Don Tuan Phong of the Vietnam Union of Friendship Organizations. We were moved by the many large flower bouquets and congratulation gifts, including carvings made by handicapped people in the various MCNV projects. An emotional and beautiful film was shown with archive footage and reports of current projects, that showed 50 years of MCNV pass in a nutshell. The film featured Ad Spijkers and Ron Marchand, former MCNV staff members. The event was very well organized by local MCNV staff. One staff member – Hieu – had arranged for everyone in Laos and the Netherlands to be able to watch it live on Facebook. The ambassador of the Netherlands spoke, the Vietnamese TV broadcasted a summary and it hit the front page of the Vietnam Times. Everything that makes MCNV so special became clearly visible: the quality for everyone, but especially the less fortunate and people with disabilities, to engage in inspiring activities, in progress. So beautiful and heart-warming. Many were clearly emotional during the event and I felt that lump in my throat too. The event concluded with a stand-up buffet and beautiful music.
To experience the added value of projects
That Sunday we went to see a Microfinance project that was once started by MCNV. The chairwoman together with 20 other women received us and offered us tea with guava and pomelos. A number of women told us frankly and in detail how they had used the loans, often only a few hundred dollars, and how it had helped them to regain spirit and also some more purchasing power. They invited us in their homes and we could see how one woman had invested in wood, to make alternative medicine, another woman had bought pomelo trees and showed us her orchard, and a third woman showed us a fish pond, where unfortunately all fish had been washed out during a recent flood. They all mentioned how the cooperative had united them. The resulting bond was also an important added value of this project. For me it was not only a special and useful journey but also a journey in which I understood what the MCNV feeling is. After experiencing how honest and heart-warming all the projects are and feeling the dedication of the staff, you understand what drives them.”
Pieter van den Hombergh, vice-chairman of the Supervisory Board
*Photo: Mr. Pieter van den Hombergh (second from left) on behalf of MCNV to receive the fourth Medal of Friendship from the Vietnamese Government.