Saturday, November 8, 2008

Day 3 Thursday, October 30, 2008

Five o’clock wakeup call this morning and I was off to the Reunification Exhibit Center (the old Presidential Palace before the end of the war) for the BIG EVENT. A line of buses pulled through the big gate, all filled with school children. A total of 1,300 3rd and 4th graders from an elementary school in Saigon came to take part in the ‘Helmets for Kids’ new awareness education campaign. The kids got off the buses in orderly fashion, lined up and marched with teachers to the staging area. The theme of the event is “March with Michelle Yeoh for Children’s Road Safety”.
One of the first celebrities to arrive was Thien Nhan, our Miracle Baby ( Thien Nhan and his adoptive parents, Mom Mai Anh and Dad Nghinh, and Brother Little Minh, all arrived late last night from Hanoi. We have not seen each other since the family left the U.S in early September after the initial visit for medical evaluation.
Back to the main celebrity of the event-Michelle Yeoh. She is a very famous international film star -especially in Asia. Some of her most recognizable roles were in James Bond ‘Tomorrow Never Dies’, ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’, and ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’ (
A very large number of media was at the event, following every move by Michelle Yeoh. She is so well-known in Asia and she even has a Vietnamese name, known as ‘Duong Tu Huynh’. Things did not start out too smoothly. I introduced Thien Nhan to Michelle. He was not ready, unimpressed, yelled “No!” while holding his hand out when Michelle asked if she could hold him! Meanwhile hundreds of media cameras were clicking and rolling. Michelle’s charm won in the end and she was able to hold Thien Nhan even though he still looked cranky and tired. It was just too early in the morning for him to put up with all of the commotion.
The ‘Helmets for Kids Ceremony and Walking Event’ was such a fun event! Thousands of elementary students participated and received new safety helmets made by Protec, which is supported by the Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIPF). I was there as a board member of AIPF (, as well as representing Kids Without Borders. KWB has participated in the Helmets for Kids (H4K) program since 2001. Partnering with many Rotary clubs in the U.S, we were able to provide thousands of safety helmets to elementary school students throughout Viet Nam. I was very important to me to be at this event to support Greig Craft, my dear friend and colleague who founded and manages Protec ( and AIPF. Greig has spent years tirelessly promoting road safety and head injury prevention-especially for children. He does this not only in Viet Nam but in several other developing countries. Earlier this year, Greig asked Michelle Yeoh to serve as Global Ambassador for the ‘Make Roads Safe Campaign’. This is her second visit to Viet Nam to advocate for children and everyone to wear safety helmets when they are on bicycles or motorbikes. Throughout Viet Nam, billboards by AIPF are educating the public of the dangers of traffic accidents and how wearing helmets prevent serious injury or death. Michelle Yeoh’s image can be found on billboards, newspapers and television ads since March 2008. Through the hard persistent work of Greig Craft, a helmet law went into effect in December 2007. Unfortunately, the wearing-helmets-on-a-motorbike laws do not cover children, the population most vulnerable out on the crowded streets. After the speeches, the fun traffic safety games, the hand-out of thousands of new helmets to the students, Michelle Yeoh led a march for several blocks followed by school bands, and thousands of helmet-wearing children and adults. Thien Nhan tried to participate but he is still having a hard time with the prosthetic leg and the walker, so the family brought him back to the hotel to rest. The campaign ended with a news conference attended by hundreds of members of the media. I was able to speak briefly on behalf of KWB, pledging our continuous support for the ‘Helmets for Kids’ program.
So many people in Viet Nam have been following Thien Nhan’s remarkable survival story, they eventually started a fan club via Thien Nhan’s web blog. Tonight, a group known as ‘Thien Nhan’s Mother from Ho Chi Minh City’ organized a dinner reception to welcome him and his family. This is Thien Nhan’s first visit to Saigon. The dinner was the opportunity for these supportive women to meet the family for the very first time, and for each of the members of this group to meet each other in person. I just sat back and witnessed a wonderful story playing out. The Miracle Baby continues to make miracles, bringing people together. Thien Nhan was in much better spirits than earlier this morning, playing with other children, and being passed around from one person to another.
It was such a long but wonderful day. When I dropped the family off, they went in to the wrong hotel until Little Minh pointed out they were in a wrong place. Good thing someone was still alert!
Note: 14,000 people die on Viet Nam’s road each year. World’s annual road death toll is more than 1.3 million people. Unfortunately, another 30,000 people in Viet Nam per year survive from traffic accidents and face life altering consequences of severe head trauma or disability. Children are always the most vulnerable. If you wish to learn more about the 'Helmets For Kids' program and how you can support it through KWB, please contact us at

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