In the United States, this man would have a wheelchair. But in Vietnam … one of the world’s poorest countries, Thuong Nguyen had to learn to walk without legs. This father of six works as a shoe repairman. He mends worn sandals … though he has no shoes of his own. Thuong lost both legs and the use of an index finger in a landmine explosion during the Vietnam War.
It’s a sight we’re not used to seeing: parents carrying their adult sons and daughters, people using tree branches for leg braces, men, women and children dragging their bodies through the mud, dog manure and sharp rocks.
These are the images two newsroom staffers from a small market TV station in Missouri captured in their documentary, “Mercy in Motion.” Reporter Sarah Hill and videographer Scott Schaefer traveled to Da Nang, Vietnam, to document a culture of people who have to crawl on the ground because they have no other source of mobility.
Their narrative included a Columbia, Mo.-based organization that makes sturdy, hand-cranked carts that allow people to get around in rugged terrains. These carts are called PETs: Personal Energy Transportation. A Missouri pastor started building PETs in his garage more than a decade ago. Now the PET Project is an international phenomenon.
“Mercy in Motion” was financed entirely from a small-market newsroom budget. The reporter/videographer team encountered a language barrier and a deadly storm that killed 100 people while KOMU was in Vietnam. While Typhoon Durian would have closed all outdoor activities in the United States, the Vietnamese needed mobility so badly, they came crawling in the wind and pouring rain to receive their PETs.
Judges lauded this “amazing story about a need few may know about and how a local community was able to help fill that need through creativity, ingenuity and dedication. A moving piece of work beautifully shot and well written and edited.”