Mass Fitting for Amputees in Tam Ky

by Kenneth Rutherford, Ph.D. [ Center for International Stabilization and Recovery ] - view pdf

The VietNam Assistance for the Handicapped (VNAH), a U.S.-based nongovernmental organization founded by Ca Van Tran, provides prosthetic devices and wheelchairs for victims of explosive remnants of war in rural communities in Vietnam. Ken Rutherford and Cameron Macauley of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery participated in a mass prostheses fitting led by VNAH in Tam Ky, Vietnam. In the article, Rutherford describes the impact this event has on nearly 200 men and women.

Fourteen AEPD staff members stand with Ken Rutherford and Cameron Macauley of CISR in the closing ceremony of the Training Workshop on Peer Support for> People with Disabilities in Vietnam, March 2012.CISR Director Ken Rutherford and CISR Trauma Rehabilitation Specialist Cameron Macauley visit the Prosthetic Outreach Mission in Tam Ky, Vietnam, March 2012.
Photo courtesy of Ca Tran/VNAH.

On 9 March 2012, my colleague, Cameron Macauley, a trauma rehabilitation specialist from the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery at James Madison University, and I had the good fortune to participate in a mass fitting for amputees in Tam Ky, Vietnam. When we arrived, some 200 men and women awaited their turns to have plaster casts made for manufacturing new, durable and very comfortable prostheses. They removed their old prostheses, and I was astonished by these ancient, handmade artificial legs constructed of wood, rubber, wire and cloth. Most of them had been broken and repaired numerous times.

We were invited by Ca Van Tran, founder and president of VietNam Assistance for the Handicapped (VNAH), a U.S.- based nongovernmental organization that sponsored the outreach event. Tran regularly visits communities in rural Vietnam to offer free prosthetic devices and wheelchairs to people with disabilities. He uses much of his personal money to support programs for people with disabilities in Vietnam, and is interested in opening new projects in Myanmar (Burma).

“A new arm, leg or wheelchair makes all the difference in the world for these people,” says Tran. “It makes work, play and everyday activities possible, and allows them to live with dignity and self-respect. Nothing gives me greater joy than to see an amputee walk with grace, pride and comfort. Even though the situation is improving for people with disabilities in Vietnam, much more needs to be done.”

The March event was an opportunity for amputees to be fitted for new prostheses to be manufactured in VNAHsupported prosthetics workshops in Da Nang. Tam Ky is home to many people affected by the Vietnam War and the explosive remnants of war resulting from it; however, access to modern mobility devices is difficult.1 Of the 200- plus amputees at the event, nearly all used worn, outdated, homemade prostheses. Poorly made devices of this type are uncomfortable to use and often lead to skin breakdown on ever be lucky enough to receive a new prosthesis. It was a wonder and a profound delight for me to see such kindness in action.

Tran recognizes the value of being able to walk with dignity and grace, run after a soccer ball and have a leg that will not buckle under your weight. Thank you, Tran, for your dedication to people with disabilities in Vietnam and around the world, and to your efforts of making their lives easier and better.

Reprinted with permission from VietNam Assistance for the Handicapped Health & Education Volunteers Update newsletter, Winter 2011–2012. c



Kenneth R. Rutherford, Ph.DKenneth R. Rutherford, Ph.D., is director of the Center for International Stabilization and Recovery and professor of political science at James Madison University. He holds a doctorate from Georgetown University (U.S.) and received his Bachelor of Arts and Master of Business Administration from the University of Colorado (U.S.). His most recent book, Disarming States: The International Movement to Ban Landmines, was published in December 2010. He is also the author of Humanitarianism Under Fire: The US and UN Intervention in Somalia and has coedited two books: Landmines and Human Security: International Politics and War’s Hidden Legacy and Reframing the Agenda: The Impact of NGO and Middle Power Cooperation in International Security Policy.


Contact Information

Kenneth R. Rutherford, Ph.D.
Center for International Stabilization and Recovery
800 South Main Street, MSC 4902
Harrisonburg, VA 22807 / USA
Tel: +1 540 568 2756



1.  In Vietnam, the Vietnam War is called the American War.