Swim Vietnam

You may not yet know this but as many as 30 children drown in Vietnam every day. I was also blissfully unaware of this until 2007. Now I am all too aware of this fact. Swim Vietnam is a charity which tackles the drowning problem by working with government, training swim teachers and ensuring children get swimming and water safety lessons as part of their school curriculum.

I have been running Swim Vietnam for eight years, but how did a Scottish girl end up in Vietnam running a swimming charity? I can’t even swim that well!
I have been running Swim Vietnam for eight years, but how did a Scottish girl end up in Vietnam running a swimming charity? I can’t even swim that well!
You may not yet know this but as many as 30 children drown in Vietnam every day. I was also blissfully unaware of this until 2007. Now I am all too aware of this fact. Swim Vietnam is a charity which tackles the drowning problem by working with government, training swim teachers and ensuring children get swimming and water safety lessons as part of their school curriculum.

I had been in Singapore for five years, enjoying the pampered life of an expat. I was living the dream with a fairly fantastic job as acting vice president for a global investment bank. But if truth be told, I have always had a limited attention span and was starting to get bored with life in the perfect bubble.

Back then I was a member of Tribob, a triathlon training club run by a lovely guy called Bob who I told about an urge to do something more meaningful with my life during a trekking trip.

Later that year Tribob set up a triathlon in Hoi An, Vietnam, and asked the local government for children to take part. The representatives scoffed; it was impossible because none of the children could swim. On further investigation, Bob learned of the huge drowning problem in Vietnam. He decided to tie a children’s swimming program in with the event.

Bob suggested that this could be an ideal project for me. I was not a swim teacher but it interested me. How hard could it be? You just need kids, teachers and pools, right? So I resigned from my job and set out on what I thought would be a three to six month assignment.

In that first six months we taught about 300 kids. At the end of the project I felt that it had been too successful to just abandon. We had already done all the hard work, forming a partnership with the education department, starting the program, training the teachers – it seemed wasteful to simply squander what we had achieved. So with sufficient corporate sponsorship for the next year (thank you Metasport, Tribob, and Barclays Capital), we just kept going.

Now Swim Vietnam has eight pools and has trained over 150 teachers of whom we employ 100. We have taught in excess of 13,500 kids and have given water safety education to another 30,000. We have trained other organisations on how to train swim teachers and set up their own swim programs. Swim Vietnam is now run by a highly experienced local management team. In 2015 we began advising the national government on how to set up swim programs and to implement water safety education nationally. So who knows what else we can achieve?

By Joanne Stewart, founder and director of Swim Vietnam.

To find out more about Swim Vietnam or swimming lessons in HCMC, visit www.swimvietnam.com or contact Joanne at swimvietnam@yahoo.com.