FOR most Australian children, learning to swim is almost a right of passage.
But in Vietnam swimming lessons are much less common, leaving many children floundering if they find themselves in trouble in the water.
In a country that regularly floods due to severe weather, UK charity Swim Vietnam was set up to help teach kids the basic swimming skills.
For the past two years, former Casuarina Recreational Centre manager David Hurt has been helping the charity to grow by donating his time to teaching and raising money for the program.
Now the Australian Patron of Swim Vietnam, Mr Hurt said the internationally- recognised program teaches certified swim training, life saver training, CPR, first aid and emergency care.
"What I did was help train their staff to an internationally recognised standard through Royal Life Saving Australia, AustSwim and Swimming Australia,” Mr Hurt said.
"We train the teachers but we also offer free swimming lessons to the children in Vietnam, particularly in Hoi An.
"Swim Vietnam works closely with the Department of Education in Vietnam and we have eight swimming pools set up in various rural and city areas. Primary school children get six weeks' worth of swimming lessons for free.”
Swim Vietnam vice-director Doan Minh Trung said the 10-year-old charity teaches students who study physical education at university to deliver the water safety education in the classrooms, resulting in more than 20,000 children learning to swim across the county.
"We've trained about 350 (swimming) teachers and maybe 1000 teachers for water safety,” he said.
"We teach (children) how to feel safe in the water.”
Mr Hurt said the program was "extremely important” to help reduce the number of drownings each year in Vietnam.
"The World Health Organisation (WHO) recognised that drowning is the leading cause of death amongst children from the age of five to 15,” Mr Hurt said.
"Over 30 people a day (drown) but at least 10 of those are kids that drown a day.
"To prevent the drowning issue and address that, obviously what we're trying to do is to get them to be self-sustainable by us teaching their teachers they can deliver it themselves locally.”
Being solely reliant on sponsorship and international donations, Mr Hurt has worked closely alongside Salt and Cudgen Life Saving Clubs, which recently raised about $1500 for Swim Vietnam.
"The money we raise we give to the charity to allow them to run all of these free programs and to provide the teacher training, facilities and all of the equipment that goes with it,” Mr Hurt said.
Mr Trung added that the money raised by Salt and Cudgen Surf Clubs would go a long way to helping Vietnamese children learn to swim.
"With that amount of money we can train about 130 people to learn to swim,” Mr Trung said.
"The lessons they receive will be in a six week block and they're the only lessons they'll receive in their entire life.”
Kingscliff Chamber of Commerce president Mark Humphries, who also volunteered his time in Vietnam supporting the charity, said the local surf clubs have provided great assistance to Swim Vietnam.
"We get a lot of grants for boards, IRB's and jet skis, so a lot of the equipment that might be our second hand equipment we're sending (to Vietnam),” he said.
Supporting Swim Vietnam
For more information about Swim Vietnam, contact:
- Donations can be made directly through the website via Paypal