Lucio Villa's Blog

March 9, 2011

Half journalist, half humanitarian

As a photographer, I arrived in Vietnam with a full-frame DSLR camera and with a total of 36 gigabytes of memory. My mind was set on capturing images that visually tell a story and having my team back it up with interviews and video footage. Team Risky is our team name, and it is composed of a writer, Keith Cousins, broadcaster, Mario Davis and myself as the photographer.

Puppy in Bac Kan, Vietnam Members of the CSUF team help sort and package medications and vitamins that will be distributed by the pharmacy in rural villages visited by the primary care team. Photo by Lucio Villa

When we landed in Vietnam we passed through customs, boarded a bus and were our way to Hanoi. I was a tourist at this moment with my camera on my lap waiting for something to appear near my side of the bus window. There was not much to photograph from the ride from the airport to the hotel in Hanoi because it was very dark and my camera’s ISO was at 64,000. The images would have been grainy.

We were all tired from the approximately 17-hour flight. We flew from Los Angeles to Tokyo. Next, we flew from Tokyo to Hanoi, Vietnam.

When I stepped out of the bus to walk into the hotel, the roads were wet and the smell of carbon monoxide was in the air. It was no wonder why many Vietnamese wear surgical masks to block the inhalation of the gas.

Two days later, I helped sort medication and vitamins in small zip-lock bags in our hotel in Bac Kan for Project Vietnam pharmacists to give to the patients the next day.

The next day, I woke up at 5:30 a.m. to begin my day of volunteering and reporting. We volunteered from 6 a.m. in a hospital in Hà Hiêu to 5:30 p.m. – almost twelve hours. We measured and documented patients’ height and weight, conducted “crowd control” and gave gifts. We helped unload and load trucks full of equipment. We were the man power of the trip – especially my classmate Don.

My classmates and I came to this trip with the intentions of bringing back stories of Project Vietnam. We will also come back to Cal State Fullerton as humanitarians who helped out the unfortunate who didn’t have access to medical and dental care in a third-world country.