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After brush with death, this swimmer is on a mission to keep Vietnamese children afloat

After brush with death, this swimmer is on a mission to keep Vietnamese children afloat

Thursday, May 26, 2022, 10:23 GMT+7
After brush with death, this swimmer is on a mission to keep Vietnamese children afloat
Red River Love’s free swimming classes are offered across the Red River Delta region, from Lao Cai to Thai Binh Provinces, in northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Red River Love is a campaign run by Exploring Swimming – a volunteer group which provides free swimming and first aid lessons to children in Red River Delta provinces in northern Vietnam.

Three years ago, Nguyen Ngoc Khanh, 35, a resident of Hanoi, nearly drowned during a long-distance swim in the Red River.

The incident was an eye opener for Khanh, who has since changed his approach to swimming and now works to share his water safety knowledge with children and adults throughout the northern region.

Free swimming classes

After nearly drowning in 2019, Khanh began working with a team of coaches to improve his swimming skills so that he could be both a safer and more efficient long-distance swimmer.

His passion for long-distance swimming in the ocean, lakes, and rivers was so strong that he launched Exploring Swimming – a club where he and other swimming enthusiasts could connect.

Red River Love volunteers install lifebuoys along a bridge across the Red River in northern Vietnam.

Red River Love volunteers install lifebuoys along a bridge across the Red River in northern Vietnam. Photo: Tuoi Tre

However, when Khanh and other club members realized just how prevalent drowning was in Vietnam, they began shifting the club's focus to water safety by posting warning signs near rivers, lakes, and beaches.

In March 2022, the club launched its Red River Love campaign, an initiative which offers free swimming classes to people in need.

Within one day of posting information about the initiative on social media, Red Rive Love was able to lure 50 volunteers and a wide group of benefactors who contributed funds toward the campaign’s free swimming classes.

“We have so much support. It shows me how meaningful our work is and encourages me to do more,” Khanh said.

Red River Love’s free swimming classes are offered across the Red River Delta region, from Lao Cai to Thai Binh Provinces.

Currently, Khanh and his fellow Exploring Swimming club members are teaching swimming to middle and high school students in Lao Cai, Yen Bai, and Tuyen Quang Provinces.

Aside from their free classes, Exploring Swimming launched an initiative on May 6 which aims to place 400 lifebuoys along the bridges which cross the Red River in 10 provinces.

So far, more than 100 lifebuoys have been installed in Lao Cai, Yen Bai, and Tuyen Quang Provinces, as well as in Hanoi.

In Hanoi alone, 33 lifebuoys now hang on six of the city’s bridges, including Thang Long, Nhat Tan, Long Bien, Chuong Duong, Vinh Tuy, and Thanh Tri Bridges.

“We hope these lifebuoys will give rescuers a helping hand in saving lives,” Khanh shared.

Sharing his passion

According to Khanh, 99 percent of drowning victims are people who overestimate their swimming skills.

Nguyen Ngoc Khanh teaches swimming and first aid lessons.

Nguyen Ngoc Khanh teaches swimming and first aid lessons. Photo: Tuoi Tre

These people often do not realize that swimming in rivers and lakes is much more dangerous than swimming a few laps in a pool.

“Several swimming coaches have told me that being able to move just 20 or 50 meters is all it takes to be considered a 'swimmer,'" Khanh said.

“Misconceptions like this make it risky for people to test themselves in rivers and lakes.

“I want to share my knowledge and passion for swimming with everyone, from kids to adults."

In the future, Khanh hopes to transform the Red River Love project from a local initiative to a nationwide campaign.

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Vuong Anh / Tuoi Tre News

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