Woman offers free swimming lessons for children

A 59-year-old woman in the Mekong Delta province of Dong Thap is teaching hundreds of local children to swim for free despite being deep in poverty herself.

   

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Thia teaches hundreds of children how to swim.



Tran Thi Kim Thia, or Sau Thia, lives at Hamlet 4, Hung Thanh Commune, Thap Muoi District. She has taught children how to swim for the past 15 years so that they can survive if there is a flood.

"The media reported about children dying in flood-prone areas every year. It hurts me to see parents in pain after losing their children and I'm afraid that such tragedy will happen in my hometown too. I volunteered when swimming teachers were needed," she said.

The swimming teaching project was started in Thia's commune in 2002. At first, Thia was concerned because she didn't know how to teach the children effectively. After talking with an official from the communal women's union, she used a net and small trees to create a small pool in the river.

Each session lasts from one to two hours for 15 days. Thia often teaches the children to swim about a month before the flood arrives. At the end of the course, she holds a 15-metre swimming contest as the final exam. 

"There are many canals that are 30 metres wide here. If the children fall from the boats, they can still swim to the shore," she said.

Phan Thi Do, a local in Hamlet 3, said, "We tried to teach our 9-year-old child to swim many times but failed. But he knows how to swim after 10 days at Thia's class."

At first, it was difficult to persuade the children to take swimming classes. The communal authorities had to give each child VND20,000 to attend the classes. Thia also had to persuade and convince the parents about her ability and that they wouldn't have to stay home to look after their children if they know how to swim.

Only 30 children attended the first class but the number has increased to nearly 200. Thia has never collected tuition fees in the past 15 years. Thia said seeing the children know how to swim to save themselves was good enough for her.

Le Hoang Nam, an official in Hung Thanh Commune, said, "We hold annual swimming classes for children aged from five to 15 years old. Thanks to Thia that we haven't had any drowning case in 15 years."

17-year-old Nguyen Thi Gam is especially grateful to Thia because she fell and almost drowned in 7th grade. But she was able to swim to the shore.

Thia was born in Tien Giang Province. She started living and working independently since 14 years old and went to Dong Thap Province. Because of poverty, she always felt inferior and didn't want to be a burden to someone else. Thia is now living alone in a dilapidated house but she is very positive.

When not teaching the children, Thia sells lotto tickets for VND100,000 (USD4.4) a day. 

"I'll teach the children as long as I can. I hope that when I can't teach anymore, the next teacher will do even better than me," she said.

dtinews

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