A Singaporean septuagenarian has given his all, including huge financial support, to help mitigate the lingering effects of Agent Orange (AO)/dioxin on Vietnamese victims.
Harold Chan, 73, has been in the central city of Da Nang since late November visiting AO-affected families.
Late last month he donated a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scanner worth US$1.5 million to Da Nang Hospital in order to facilitate diagnosis and improve the health of victims of the toxic chemical.
The equipment has been put into operation at the hospital to benefit Agent Orange/dioxin victims as well as poor people in the city.
Chan has also decided to sponsor an annual fund worth VND720 million (US$32,000) in support of the victims.
The sums are taken from the elderly man’s lifelong savings.
He has also worked with the hospital’s doctors regarding how to operate the scanner and provide treatment for the first batch of patients.
Chan revealed that six months ago, he happened to see stark images of Vietnamese AO sufferers on television against the hustle and bustle of their modern-day country.
“I’ve been to many countries, including the U.S. and European nations. Never have I witnessed such appalling images. I was unspeakably shocked,” he said.
The distorted faces and serious disabilities of AO children lingered in his mind for days and spurred him to travel to the S-shaped country.
Chan carried out his own search for information and immediately decided to come to Da Nang, one of the Vietnamese localities where AO abnormalities remain pervasive.
He visited the Da Nang Association of Victims of Agent Orange in April, introducing himself as a tourist.
He was then introduced to Nguyen Thi Hien, the society’s chair, who initially did not expect the haggard-looking, small-built man to be such a generous philanthropist.
The MRI scanner donated by Harold Chan is pictured at Da Nang Hospital in Da Nang City, central Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Chan took pains to visit more than 10 affected families in Hoa Vang and Cam Le Districts as well as AO victim centers in remote places to witness their suffering with his own eyes.
The elderly man drooped at the sight of a woman who had lost her husband to dioxin and is caring for their two afflicted children, and elderly couples who are tending to their grandchildren paralyzed by the toxin.
“What impressed me most is that they all refuse to give up though they’re well aware that the condition is incurable. I could only keep my head low and called them ‘heroes,” he added.
Chan also listened attentively to what Hien, the chairwoman of the Da Nang Association of Victims of Agent Orange, had to say regarding how the society has raised 150 AO kids mostly on its own and without financial assistance.
The old man even canceled his flight home to make it to a live television show featuring AO kids in Da Nang in early June.
During the show, Chan offered to sponsor an annual fund worth VND720 million dedicated to the victims.
Only then did it dawn on Hien what the purpose of his field trips were.
Such trips also indicated that despite providing devoted care, local hospitals are in dire need of cutting-edge medical equipment, which has seriously hampered the efficiency of their diagnosis and treatment.
The sight of patients waiting in long lines for an MRI scan prompted Chan to gift the costly scanner to Da Nang Hospital.
Hien further divulged that Chan has also sponsored the construction of a 100-square-meter in-patient care center in the city.
The facility, worth approximately VND1.3 billion ($56,868), is slated to be operational soon.
Chan kept refusing to disclose information about his personal life and family.
He merely revealed he had worked for International Business Machines Corp. (IBM) before founding his own company in Singapore.
He did not admit he is wealthy, but stressed he is fortunate to have a healthy wife and daughter.
“I really hope businesses in Vietnam will join hands to relieve local AO victims’ anguish. The whole world should also be willing to help,” Chan said.