During my tour of Vietnam in 1993, we stayed for a few days in Hoi An, a small fishing village on the coast in Central Vietnam. Together with the tour leader, Anuschka, wandering through the village, I came upon an obstetric clinic. It made a big impression: a couple of rooms, but no equipment. The little material they had was so out of date that you couldn’t call it a clinic with facilities. The ‘delivery room’ only had one old bed.. Britsen for the women who would soon deliver or had just delivered. No blankets, pillows, etc, – altogether, very primitive.
After the trip, Vietnam stayed in my thoughts. I wanted to make a contribution, but how? In 1997, I finally started a project for the obstetric clinic. First I contacted Anuschka, who agreed to find out for me whether the clinic was still running. Her next trip was very conveniently scheduled for December 1997. It was great to hear a couple of months later that the clinic was still there and that they would send a list of what they needed. With this information, I visited different agencies that might be able to help me.

At the same time, other friends had been looking into collecting the materials. It was naturally very important to keep the costs as low as possible, but still to collect as many of the needed goods as possible. A hospital made some materials available at no cost. All of this had to be done in my free time, so it took a few months, but finally we had collected 98% of the items on the list! Then, it was important to have a contact person at the project site, so I got in touch with another tour leader. During one of her trips, she had met two cousins who were willing to give me the support I needed. That was of course fantastic, making many things so much easier. Through an e-mail from Vietnam, I was introduced to Phi and Linh. So I could get the information I needed and I got started. With a clothes event and a number of spontaneous donations, we reached a sum of money, for which we established the foundation in 1998, the Foundation for Help in Southeast Asia (Hulza).
A few months later, we got to work on transporting the goods, which needed some research, on how to get the goods to the right place. My brother Michel was a great support in this process. We sent some of the goods, about 45 kg., through the organisation World Baggage Services at Schiphol. They arranged for the shipment to go by air through Paris to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). There, the goods would be sent on to Danang Airport, 30 km. north of Hoi An. The shipment could be collected there with the appropriate paperwork. It was really important to me that the materials go to the right place, and I decided to go to Hoi An myself. It was great that my brother had become enthusiastic about the project and decided to join me! We could take a lot of the materials with us. We left on December 15th 1998 for Paris, via Bangkok to Hanoi in the North of Vietnam. We stayed there a couple of days to organise getting the medicines that were also needed from a hospital and a pharmacy in Hanoi, then took it all with us to Hoi An.

And that is how Hulza got its start!. You can read the whole story in the 1999 Newsletter.

Monique Smiers