While watching from afar as their own countries struggle to battle the raging COVID-19 epidemic, foreigners living in Vietnam are doing their part to help keep the virus at bay in their adopted home.
Rafael Masters, a British national who has been living in Vietnam for nearly 11 years, is a co-founder of Vulcan Augmetics, a start-up that produces affordable prosthetics so that amputees in developing countries can participate in the workforce.
Now, as the COVID-19 pandemic devastates countries around the world, Masters is using Vulcan Augmetics as a platform to connect 3D creators and designers with healthcare professionals in Vietnam in order to collaborate on the production of much-needed medical equipment for local hospitals.
“I am from England, which gives me a lot of motivation to try and help Vietnam,” Masters explained.
“I look at what’s happening in my country now, where we have no plan, where the hospitals are having huge problems, where they do not have an effective system to help, where people are dying by the hundreds, and I do not want that to happen in Vietnam.”
Masters and his team are taking the West’s lack of preparedness and using it as a lesson on how not to handle a pandemic.
“They were not ready. The virus hit and it took them weeks to get organized,” he said. “We can’t start to organize after people are dying.”
To do this, Vulcan Augmetics is building a library filled with digital designs of medical equipment so that 3D printmakers can create supplies for doctors and nurses on the front lines.
The library also includes digital plans of replacement parts for medical devices to ensure hospitals are able to quickly access spare parts for broken equipment.
If Vietnam continues to keep the virus’s spread under control, Masters plans to make sure any surplus medical supplies produced via his platform are donated to countries in need.
Free online classes and masks
Ben Betterby, an American stand-up comedian who lives in Ho Chi Minh City, has spent the last few weeks following the government’s orders on social distancing, but rather than spend his time alone, he’s spending it with his Vietnamese friends and fans who join him on the Internet for free English lessons.
“There are no conditions for joining. [My students] just need to say ‘hi’ and be willing to learn. This is a great opportunity for Vietnamese pupils and students to become confident and comfortable with e-learning,” Betterby said.
Before the government requested that all residents refrain from leaving their houses, Nigerian YouTuber Nnadozie Uzor Nadis could be found on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City offering free facemasks to unprotected passersby.
“I told my friends to let me know if they knew anyone who needed facemasks. I didn’t care about the price,” Nadis said.
“Helping others and making them feel safe is just the right thing to do.”
|Nnadozie Uzor Nadis, a Nigerian YouTuber based in Ho Chi Minh City, delivers free face masks to locals on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City in this supplied photo.|
Nadis was able to scrounge up nearly 500 masks to give away and enlisted a group of Vietnamese volunteers to help pass them out.
While many of the people they approached were too shy to take a mask, the group continued until all their facemasks had been donated.
Shyness should not get in the way of public health, Nadis said.
Nadis has been living in Vietnam for ten years and considers it his second home.
To protect that home, Nadis uses his YouTube channel to inform his following on the importance of washing hands, wearing masks in public, and donating to the government’s COVID-19 prevention efforts.
“If you are not at home, please wear a mask. Even if you aren’t scared of the virus, you could still pass it on to someone else,” Nadis said.
“You might not even know you got it and wind up indirectly killing somebody. This virus does not know nationality. It doesn’t care if you’re white or black or green or yellow,” he added.
“Some young people think it’s not going to affect them, but trust me, just from statistics, a lot of young people do get it and also die from it. If you think you’re safe, you’re not.”