Walking the Walk

I’ve been trying, in every way that I can think of, to share my knowledge and love of physical therapy with young Vietnamese therapists since I first started volunteering in Da Nang more than five years ago. Regretfully, neither I nor any of the other American, Canadian, German, Australian, or New Zealander therapists that I’ve encountered have had any significant success in that regard. Even with our best efforts at demonstrating and explaining, with the assistance of the best translators that we can find, we still have not been able to light a fire under these marginally trained so-called physical therapists. What a pity. And what a puzzle, as well.

The question I’ve been wrestling with for the past year or so is: what can I do in the face of this seemingly intractable obstacle to providing decent rehabilitative care for the disabled folks that I encounter here in Central Vietnam? The answer that I finally settled upon is to just provide the care myself, with the help of some intelligent, compassionate, bi-lingual young assistants.

So, for the past six months, Trang (a lovely young disabled woman who initially signed on as our cook) and Huy (my trusty translator) have been working directly with disabled kids out in the countryside, along with me and an occasional foreign volunteer. And it’s been great! What a difference to work alongside young people who are open to new ideas and enthusiastic about helping disabled folks and their families have a better life! Instead of merely talking about rehabilitation, we’re doing it. (Following our lead, the Kianh Foundation hired Trang’s little sister, newly graduated from high school, to work alongside Danielle, their Aussie PT, and found her enthusiasm, diligence and openness to new ideas a breath of fresh air after working for seven years with typical Vietnamese therapists.)

 Steady Footsteps has now initiated a new formal relationship with the Traditional Medicine Hospital of Da Nang and an informal one with a brand new school for disabled kids in Da Nang. Trang and Huy are working alongside me with the blessings of the administration of both facilities. What a relief to give up on “Talking the Talk” and finally just focus on “Walking the Walk!”