Billboard in Ho Chi Minh City
Bill Brower is a Field Program Officer with GlobalGiving who is visiting our partners’ projects throughout South and Southeast Asia. In early January he visited the AIP Foundation offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, as well as the Protec helmet manufacturing facility outside of Hanoi. His “Postcard” from the visit:
A motobike (or “xe om”), ubiquitous in Vietnam’s cities, cruises down the street carrying three passengers: Dad in the back, reaching around Mom to drive—she with their young daughter standing between her legs. The parents wear helmets but the daughter, not required to by law, does not. Cut in to the scene are snippets from their happy daily lives. The motobike approaches an intersection. A truck doesn’t stop. They’re hit and the little girl goes flying. The screen fades to black as you hear the parents frantically calling out for their daughter…and receiving no response. It is with powerful, award-winning videos depicting tragically common scenes like these that AIP Foundation helps change the perception of wearing helmets, for everyone, in Vietnam. Taking another angle, they also have billboards around town (like the one I saw in the attached picture) showing famous people in Vietnam wearing helmets.
Recognizing that all helmets are not created equal, AIP Foundation produces helmets itself through a separate company called Protec. The design takes into account feedback from riders and common complaints about helmets. At their manufacturing facility, where they mostly employ individuals with a physical disability (who otherwise have a very difficult time finding a job in Vietnam), I saw them doing extensive quality testing of their helmets and those of competitors. Unfortunately, the current law mandating helmets (for adults) does not specify the quality of the helmet. (A few weeks later in Thailand, which has a similar law, I even saw a Thai woman wearing an American football helmet!) The Protec design was faring better in the tests I saw than many of its competitors.
My time in Vietnam did not overlap with any of their trainings, but their account of progress thus far made it sound like the expansion of AIP Foundation efforts elsewhere through the Global Helmet Vaccine Initiative will impact many lives. The analogy of a helmet as a vaccine against an ailment for which there is no cure (i.e. brain damage) is a powerful one—particularly when you consider that more people die each year from road accidents than malaria. I’m happy to see they’ve recently secured a permanent spot on GlobalGiving!
Testing Protec helmets vs. the competition
Protec helmets looked to be holding up much better