Saturday, May 08, 2010

Swim time

Here's a frightening fact:

Today in Vietnam, 10 children will drown.

And tomorrow, 10 more.

Despite being a nation inundated with water, very few people here know how to swim. Add to that the general belief in luck / fortune ("No need to supervise the kids down at the lake, nothing is likely to go wrong") and you have a recipe for disaster.

And 10 kids drowning every day is a disaster.

In a country with 85 million people, this is a tricky problem to solve. That's a lot of people who need to learn how to swim - but who can teach, if so few people have the skills?

One 'easy' answer is to run awareness campaigns. Blue Dragon once ran such a campaign for the kids in one of our programs; but awareness is nowhere near enough. Even the UN and the Vietnamese government seem to be stuck on this - telling people that they should fence off houses near water is woefully inadequate. Action, not words, are need.

Vietnamese kids need to learn how to swim.

With summer coming on, Blue Dragon is preparing to start up it's annual swimming program. Foreign volunteers taught our Vietnamese staff to swim back in 2005; those staff have now taught all our other staff, and each year we teach the kids from our Hanoi centre basic water survival and swimming techniques.

The kids love it, of course, and there are a handful of teens at our centre who have lost family members to drowning accidents, so they also appreciate the opportunity to learn.

We've just had some good news, too, that the German European School in Singapore is holding a swim gala this month, and all the money they raise will be for us to run our 2010 swimming program.

We won't be able to teach thousands of kids to swim, but every child who learns will be better able to survive in the water. And in years to come, they'll be teaching their own children how to swim.

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