We are finally ready to meet with pre-schools and ask if they will allow us to have a meeting with children and parents to talk about why children need to wear a motorbike helmet... and to give each child from 3 to 5 years old a free motorbike helmet.
|First-draft helmet graphics|
This is the business card I designed:
It has the phrase that will be on every helmet, "This helmet protects my future" at the top. Then it says, "Free motorbike helmets for the young children of Dalat" with the phone number and email address I set up. The email translates to "Love Your Children"@gmail.com.
The photo is of the three year old daughter of a friend and she is wearing the helmet I bought her the first time we met. When I saw that she rode on her mother's motorbike sans helmet, I asked Mom if she would let me buy a helmet for her. Mom agreed, and as soon as we put it on her, she LOVED it!
On my first visit to Vietnam almost two years ago, I noticed that a number of adults and 99+% of the children did NOT wear a helmet when on a motorbike. I understand that many adults either think they're bulletproof (WRONG!) or that the government shouldn't tell them that they have to protect that thin boney cover over their brain. Whatever your thoughts on that, children CANNOT make fully-informed, rational decisions and parents should make them wear a helmet.
I was greatly troubled by seeing so many children in daily danger. Upon my return to the U.S., I started researching ways that I might help and read about AIPF and their current work with elementary schools in Hanoi, Danang, and Ho Chi Minh City. I emailed them and asked if they have any plans to branch out to Dalat; they said they did not. My next question was, will you sell me helmets and literature you've developed? They said yes, so the next step was figuring out where to get the money.
Labor Day Weekend 2014 I had an Estate Sale to offload my accumulations and I decided to donate 100% of the proceeds from that three-day sale toward buying helmet for the children of my new home.
I had some nice stuff and never hesitated to ask a fair price. Between sales and a couple small donations, I collected $7535.28 and every penny is still sitting, untouched, in its own bank account.
In addition to the helmet shown in the Estate Sale flyer and the one on the card above, I've used my own funds (NOT those set aside for helmets) to purchase three adult full-face helmets for Vietnamese adult friends, two adult-size helmets for other Vietnamese friends (as in the rest of the world, some people object to wearing a full-face helmet), and nine child-size helmets either for children of friends. None of the children had ever before had a motorbike helmet and all wear them 100% of the time they're riding. It's a start...
A law went into effect very recently in Vietnam requiring all children six years old and older to wear a motorbike helmet. Since the effective date of that law, nearly every six-plus year old child I see on a motorbike is wearing a helmet, so it is helping greatly. Helmet-wearing children under six are more prevalent than prior to the law's implementation, though my unscientific visual survey puts the overall number at less than 10%.
Last Friday I met with a Ho Chi Minh representative of Protec about purchasing the helmets I want to give away. Protec is a non-profit project of the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation, who is doing a great job of promoting the wearing of motorbike helmets by children. AIPF was instrumental in getting the various helmet laws passed throughout SE Asia, including the one covering 6-plus year olds here in Vietnam. They have given away thousands (more likely tens of thousands) of Protec motorbike helmets in the ASEAN countries.
From the Protec web site:
"Protec Tropical Helmets are specifically designed for the hot and wet climates of ASEAN countries. Protec safety experts have measured over 5,000 Vietnamese heads throughout the country to guarantee that these helmets will fit your head perfectly at any age. Protec helmets keep your head safe and are suitable for Vietnam’s chaotic traffic patterns.
"The Protec helmet is designed to be lightweight and well-ventilated, with a fit-band that is adjustable to any head size."
The funds currently earmarked will purchase helmets with face shield for about 500 children. There are quite a few schools and each has from 250 to 400 children, so I am working on setting up a way for anyone wishing to donate money to help us buy more helmets.
My friend My (Mee) and I are both working on this project without compensation. Vy (Vee), the one other person working with me volunteered to work gratis, though because of her personal situation I insisted on paying her US$5 per hour—a living wage here for full-time work. Vy and I met on my first trip to Đà Lạt and she is pretty much fluent in English, so 98+% of our communication is a breeze. We've brainstormed a few times about this project and she is making cold calls to local schools trying to get us face time with the principal.
Vy met with the first school on her own and they were VERY skeptical; apparently unable to believe that a foreigner would give away 300 quality helmets to children he does not know. She suggested that we go to the next school together and this morning we did just that.
I spoke, Vy translated, and we were very well-received. The school administration is quite excited about our proposal and assured us that the parents will be receptive. The Head Mistress even beat me to one of my planned suggestions—that they require the children to wear their helmets to and from school and promised to do so. I added that I am considering offering 20,000VND (~US$1) to any kids I see wearing one of our helmets on motorbike, to which she replied that both the kids and the parents would love that idea.
We agreed that this would be our first school and discussed some of the logistics. Lead time on the helmets is 3-4 weeks, so they would arrive too late for us to distribute them before I leave on my trip to the U.S. The tentative dates for the presentation are 14-15 September. We decided to have two presentations on consecutive nights because each will have up to 300 people, students and parents, and as I mentioned in an earlier post, the Vietnamese people are extremely challenged at queuing up patiently. Two main groups with further sorting into seven classrooms should help things run more smoothly.
|The two school officials with whom we met today|
In addition to 270 or so helmets for the children of this school, we offered to give an adult-size helmet to each of the 26 staff members. Our thought is that when the children and parents see the school staff wearing helmets of the same design, it will reinforce the value of the children's helmets and help foster an additional sense of community. The bright smile on their faces told us that they were hoping for such an offer.
When I got home after the meeting, I found an email waiting for me from Protec. It contained the graphic design for the helmets:
If you'd like to weigh in, I welcome your comments and/or emails. After placing the order, I'll post the final design.