AWSOM water safety education in Vietnam

12 February 2016

little girl in Vietnam wearing goggles on edge of swimming poolA team of swimming teachers from Beatty Park Leisure Centre traveled to Vietnam last month to teach swimming and water safety skills to children as part of the AWSOM (Australian Water Safety On the Mekong) Project.  

32 children drown every day in Vietnam, which means more than 11,000 children lose their lives to drowning each year! On top of that thousands of children are left with lifelong injuries and disabilities following non-fatal drowning incidents.

The AWSOM Project strongly believes that much of this loss of lives is preventable, through appropriate water safety education and equipment.

This year 12 teachers provided vital swimming and water safety skills to 300 disadvantaged, disabled and/or orphaned children in the Tien Giang Province. This province is located along the Mekong River, which is the source of life for over 1.5 million people. Ironically it's also an ever-present hazard for children and adults who live and work along its banks. Children don’t know how to swim and education about water safety is very limited.

Royal Life Saving Society WA provided resources for the AWSOM team, including Dippy Duck merchandise and books which were given as prizes and gifts to the children involved.

Bev Christmass, Swim School Coordinator at the Beatty Park Leisure Centre leads the AWSOM team, and says there were many highlights during this year's trip. 

"The donated ducks and books were such a hit with the kids. We used most of them during our Community Education sessions with children at remote schools. They belted out the AWSOM Rescue Jingle (in English) at the top of their lungs along with all the actions. The look on their faces as they received the ducks and books for being brave enough to answer questions was priceless. Then their parents eagerly joined in the CPR sessions in anticipation of receiving a Royal Life Saving Society WA duck!"

"We cried when we heard about the little sight impaired girl who was abandoned as a baby. An elderly lady (who has a son with Down Syndrome of her own) took the baby in and became her mum. She supports her children by collecting plastic bottles and cans in the streets which she sells for a couple of dollars per bag."

"We shed tears again as we walked along the banks of the river late one afternoon. A small memorial was set-up amongst the rubbish by the river. On the day we arrived in My Tho City, a 12 year old boy was playing with his friends on the river’s edge when one of them got caught out of his depth.  His brave friend jumped in to try to save him. The little boy survived but the friend who tried to help didn’t and his body has still not been found."
boy laying by the pool using a pool noodle to rescue a friend By the end of AWSOM's visit to Vietnam the team watched proudly as their young students calmly and confidently demonstrated how they could rescue their friends safely. With great pride they also showed off their survival skills in the water and their newly acquired swimming skills.

Bev says "Our greatest wish is that these children will now be safer in and around water. Hopefully this will ensure that their precious lives will not be cut short through something as preventable as drowning."

The AWSOM Project also aims to ensure water safety education is ongoing in Vietnam, by providing training for locals to become swim instructors. During the recent trip nine remote community members studied and trained with the AWSOM team, and at the end of the week had qualified as Swim Australia Teachers and completed the Royal Life Saving Resuscitation Course.

Over the past five years AWSOM has also provided scholarships to 11 recipients from the Tien Giang Province for professional development and training in Australia where they qualified as swimming teachers. There are now 20 Swim Australia qualified teachers in the Tien Giang Province.

Royal Life Saving Society WA is proud to support the AWSOM Project, and looks forward to being involved again next year.

Vietnamese children attending a water safety talk

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