“If only heads could bounce”- my day with AIP Foundation and Helmet Safety in Vietnam

“Every year over 12,00 people die on roads and 30,000 are seriously injured..most of these cases could have been prevented by simply wearing a helmet…Wear a helmet. There are no excuses.” – 2007 Public Service Announcement by Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, Vietnam Helmet Wearing Coalition, and National Traffic Safety Committee.

This was a public service announcement by Asia Injury Prevention Foundation in 2007 to spread awareness about the life-saving impact of wearing helmets. Instead of 12,000, now 11,000 people die per year on roads. Created by Greig Craft, AIP Foundation (501c3) was established to compat epidemic levels of road traffic fatalities and inuries in developing countries. On Friday, Apri 6, I was able to spend the morning with Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, meet staff, and see their programs in action.

Before reading on …watch THIS to get a glimpse of what traffic is like in Vietnam. This video gives a great insite into WHY helmet safety is so important.

Traffic in Frenetic HCMC, Vietnam from Rob Whitworth on Vimeo.

Aaron, Development Coordinator, and Hong, Program Coordinator accompanied me to a school in District 9, Ho Chi Minh City, where the students participate in the “Click On Safety” project, “Safe Routes to School “ program,  as well as are recipients of “Helmets For Kids”.

Immediately on arrival, I was greeted by the principal and vice-principal. They accompanied us to a classroom where the teacher was about to start “ClickOn Safety”, an e-learning program teaching road safety for 1st grade students. This program is in pilot phase. The kids were excited, engaged, and interacting with the e-learning program – playing educational games, answering questions, and cheering when getting questions right.

While observing the class, I noticed  all of the children had their uniforms, backpacks, and HELMETS which were strapped to the sides of their desks thanks to AIP Foundation. In 2011, 6,680 helmets were donated in Vietnam, 2,542 in Cambodia, and 260 in Thailand through Helmets for Kids. Since the program started in 2000, around 500,000 helmets have been donated.

Kids in class with helmets at their sides

Kids in class with helmets at their sides

After, we sat down with the principal and vice principal. They explained that they have been working with AIP for 2 years. At the beginning, students did not like the helmets because they were not attractive, but after they were made colorful, the kids began to like them. Before the helmets, they had an incident of a father of a student dying and only 20% of the student population wore helmets. Now 80-90% of the students wear helmets to school, and there are still a few traffic accidents but that number has decreased and the injuries are not as serious as before.

AIP now has a university team doing research on how to better engage families and parents in the helmet safety program.

Promoting helmet safety at the school

Promoting helmet safety at the schools

How does AIP Foundation choose its schools? First the Department of Education provides of list of schools where a majority of the parents are laborers, poor, and or government workers. Then AIP hosts interviews and surveys the schools to find out the number of students that are currently wearing helmets and number of accidents. Finally, AIP launches the programs involving teachers, school staff, and of course the students.

Next, I witnessed the “Traffic Corner” being used by one of the physical fitness classes outside.  The “traffic corner” is a portion of the playground or courtyard turned into a mini-interactive 4-way traffic stop complete with crosswalks and working lights. Kids are able to practice safe ways of crossing the streets and reading stop lights.

Finally, I was able to sit with Executive Director, Mirjam, and Development Coordinator, Aaron, to learn about all of the projects, public awareness campaigns, successes, and challenges of AIP Foundation.  AIP Foundation was able to accelerate approval of the Vietnam Helmet Law and because of this, helmet wearing has increased 10% to 98% by adults. AIP Foundation now works with the mass media to create awareness campaigns about how wearing a helmet can save lives.

I was able to learn more about Protec, a non-profit arm of AIP Foundation that is increasing quality and standard in the helmet industry in Vietnam. Protec helmets are the “world’s first “tropical” motorcycle helmet designed…low cost, lightweight…appropriate for warm climates” via AIP brochure. Protec is a social business that reinvests all profits back into AIP Foundation to help create self-sustainability as well as hire disabled workers to provide opportunities for the disadvantaged.

Protec helmets - improving quality and standard

Protec helmets – improving quality and standard
With my very own Protec Helmet

It is unfathomable to understand the importance of helmet-wearing unless one has been to Vietnam and driven through traffic on a motorbike. Motorbikes are the main means of transportation for people in Vietnam. The law currently only requires adults and children over 6 to wear helmets, but many kids older than 6 still do not wear helmets and the law is not effectively enforced. This was similar to my experience in Cambodia, where I saw a majority of children AND adults not wearing helmets. I now own my very own helmet for the remainder of my time in Southeast Asia with GlobalGiving – and it’s a Protec helmet.

To give a helmet go here: http://www.globalgiving.org/4954

To support the campaigns go here: http://www.globalgiving.org/7585