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How Swimming Lessons Save Lives in Vietnam

In a mountain town in northern Vietnam, Food for the Hungry (FH) is helping children get to school safely — with swimming lessons.

Hung is a 12-year-old boy from a community in Thai Nguyen province. He’s one of many students for whom the walk to school during the rainy season can be deadly. Floodwaters roll down the mountains and fill streams that crisscross the walking paths. Children regularly drown in this region simply trying to get an education.

“On my way to school, I have to go across many rivers and streams, some with a bridge and some without a bridge,” says Hung. “It’s dangerous for me to wade across when the water runs fast.”

In many ways, FH had already improved life for children in Hung’s community. Through the generosity of child sponsors, FH made life better for children in areas like education and health. But sometimes the standard solutions aren’t enough. With children dying simply because they were trying to go to school, FH had to find another solution.

Keeping Children Alive with Swimming Lessons

Hung and other children also bathe in large ponds and are at risk of drowning when the water level is higher than usual. Parents knew it was dangerous, but their only recourse was to keep children home from school or remind them to stay away from places prone to flooding. “When the floods or storms happen, many roads are overwhelmed with water,” says Hung’s mother, Loan. On the worst days, Loan says, children “do not dare to go to school.”

Children in swimming pool with boy looking at camera

Hung (center) enjoying time in the swimming pool.

FH learned of the dangers the children faced from community leaders, parents, and teachers. Working with the community, FH helped initiate summer swimming lessons during the months of June, July, and August. Parents bring their children to a swimming pool where children take 10 lessons. So far, FH’s efforts have taught lifesaving swimming skills to some 900 children.

In Hung’s case, he’s definitely an overachiever. Not only did he learn to swim, but he also caught the competitive swimming bug! “Thanks to the swimming class, I learned and now I can swim very well,” Hung says. He won third prize at a district-level competition, helping his school win first place at a competition between 16 schools.

Hung sees swimming as a door to a future he never envisioned before. “I want to study well, and I hope that in the future I can help others learn swimming. And I hope I can become a swimming athlete!”

Swimming Lessons Come from Listening to the Community

Listening to the community’s needs resulted in a solution that will save lives. That’s how FH helps children thrive, by developing relationships with parents and community leaders. Parents share their fears and dreams for their children — and together — FH and the community find solutions to the problems. Faithful supporters provide resources through monthly child sponsorship to make these solutions possible.

“I am thankful to FH and sponsors for supporting us with many activities, especially in educating us in many useful skills to protect ourselves,” Hung says.

Continue Reading:

Transforming Communities Through Clean Water

FH Begins Operations in Vietnam

Together: Partnerships that Go the Distance