A Solution to Vietnam's Amputee Problem?
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because if these young college students can make an impact, so can you.
By Sarah Netter
Every year, OZY gives 10 college students the opportunity to pursue their outstanding ideas and envisioned innovations with grants of up to $10,000. The OZY Genius Awards aim to support and celebrate the next Albert Einstein, Mark Zuckerberg, Oprah Winfrey or Wendy Kopp, as they write groundbreaking books, film thought-provoking documentaries, launch tomorrow’s industry-disrupting companies, or create the next game-changing social movements. Applications for the 2018 OZY Genius Awards are now open — find more information here.
Last year, a pair of our honorees was Trang Duong and Victor Wang, whose genius idea was a way to give Vietnam’s amputee population better access to prosthetics. Since receiving their OZY Genius Award, the team was recently featured onstage at the Clinton Global Initiative and has collected over 200 prosthetic limbs to be fitted to amptuees in Vietnam. Here’s our profile of the pair from last year.
Trang Duong and Victor Wang: Penta, a joint initiative, 2017 OZY Genius Award Winners
When Trang Duong, a junior at Brown, and Victor Wang, a junior at Yale, traveled to Vietnam together, they were startled to find an enormous number of people with limb disabilities and injuries from land mines and motorcycle accidents. Indeed, land mines are an issue that continues to plague the country. Last year, Ngo Thien Khiet, a team leader and senior technician with the anti-land mine organization Project RENEW, was searching for explosive weapons in a paddy field in the Quang Tri province when a cluster bomb exploded. Khiet, a father of two, was killed, and another technician was injured.
Khiet’s death heartbreakingly underscored the dangers of buried land mines and other explosives that dot Vietnam. Leftovers from the war, these devices have maimed or killed tens of thousands of people in the 40 years since the war ended. And they are seemingly everywhere — last year, children found a cluster bomb near their school while they were planting flowers, according to Project RENEW. A war veteran found another cluster bomb in a construction site at his son’s home, and more than 30 mortars were found underground near a church.
Duong and Wang also learned that, to make matters worse, many of those injured by land mines who suddenly find themselves amputees as a result don’t have access to prosthetic care due to the high cost. The two college students decided to found Penta, with the mission to bring high-quality, low-cost prosthetics to Vietnam.
To help amputees, Duong and Wang have begun to collect used prosthetics in the U.S. To customize the equipment, they’ve partnered with local hospitals and clinics. They’ve also developed longer-term relationships with people they’ve helped, many of whom were unable to attend school because of their disabilities and lack of access to prosthetic care. “We want to do more than fit people with prosthetics, and we hope to impact people’s quality of life through our work,” Duong says.
- Sarah Netter, OZY Author Contact Sarah Netter