Woman awarded Labour Order Medal from President for teaching children to swim

June 10, 2023 - 08:42

With the desire to help children learn to swim and limit drowning, over the past 20 years, Trần Thị Kim Thia has diligently taught swimming free of charge for children.

Trần Thị Kim Thia teaches a boy to swim. — VNA/VNS Photo Nhựt An

ĐỒNG THÁP — Trần Thị Kim Thia has spent the past two decades selflessly teaching children how to swim, without expecting any form of compensation. Her ultimate goal is to equip youngsters with vital aquatic skills and mitigate the risk of drowning incidents.

Residing in Hưng Thạnh Commune, within the Tháp Mười District of the southern province of Đồng Tháp, Thia's commitment to her cause has garnered widespread admiration.

During the years of the revolutionary war, Thia diligently served as a liaison officer, contributing to the nation's struggle for unity and independence. In recognition of her exceptional volunteer work with children, she has now been bestowed the esteemed third-class Labour Order medal by the President of Viet Nam.

Thia's journey has not been without its share of challenges. Following the nation's unification, she faced arduous circumstances, striving to make ends meet through various odd jobs, including farming and construction work. As time wore on, her health gradually declined, making it increasingly difficult for her to secure employment. Consequently, she resorted to selling lottery tickets to supplement her income.

Nonetheless, Thia's unwavering determination has remained steadfast throughout her tribulations. Her altruistic efforts in imparting swimming skills to countless young individuals have not only cemented her status as a beloved figure within the community but have also earned her national recognition.

Looking ahead, it is certain that Trần Thị Kim Thia's enduring dedication will continue to positively impact the lives of countless children, fostering a safer and more resilient generation.

She joined a local women's volunteer group in 1992 to contribute more to her community.

In 2002, Hưng Thạnh Commune launched a project to teach children to swim for free. Thia was assigned as the swim coach. 

She went door to door in the community to encourage children to join the free swimming classes. 

She also gradually learned to improve her own swimming and teaching abilities.

Thia teaches the children in a small canal with shallow water that comes up to an adult’s chest. 

She lined bamboo poles across the canal for children to hold on to, and fenced off the swimming area to protect the children.

In 2016, a benefactor donated to build a swimming pool at the Hưng Thạnh Commune Centre for Culture and Community. It’s safer and more convenient for the children to learn to swim as a result. 

Thia considers her young trainees to be like her own children and grandchildren.

Thanks to Thia’s warmth and determination, many of the children know how to swim after just a few days of training. 

Cao Nguyên, 11, said that his parents tried to teach him to swim many times, but he couldn’t learn. He can now swim well after just a short time in Thia’s classes. 

Thia taught Nguyên’s father and older brother to swim in the past, so they were already very confident in her abilities. 

Thia’s reputation as a formidable teacher spread quickly and many parents now send their children to her classes. 

Lê Hồng Đức, from Trường Xuân Commune in Tháp Mười District said his hometown has many rivers and canals. He’s worried because his children don’t know how to swim. 

Đức’s house is far away from Thia’s classes, but he still brings his children to her during their summer holidays thanks to her stellar reputation. 

Thia stops selling lottery tickets during the summer break and devotes her time to teaching children how to swim for free.

Most of the children are from six to fifteen years old, although younger children can also join to get in the habit of swimming. 

On average, Thia teaches six to eight classes per year. Over the past 20 years, Thia has taught more than 5,000 children to swim.

She doesn’t charge any fees despite her difficult economic situation - she just wants the children to be able to swim well and avoid drowning. 

Chairman of the Hưng Thạnh Commune People's Committee Đoàn Văn Tuấn said that Thia’s work takes on deeper, seeing as the commune is located in an area prone to flooding. 

The commune has called for benefactors to build Thia a house to provide more stability in her life.

Thia was awarded the third-class Labour Order medal by the President of Viet Nam for her outstanding achievements.

She also received a certificate of merit from the Prime Minister and several other certificates of merit from the Đồng Tháp Province People's Committee.

She has also been included in Forbes Việt Nam’s list of 20 inspirational women in the country. 

She is happy to see her trainees are now grown up and have stable jobs. Even though they work far away, they still come to visit her on holidays, such as during Tết (Lunar New Year).

Now, nearly 70 years old, Thia is still passionate about teaching swimming.

She is looking for people to continue her work because her health is deteriorating, but it is difficult to find replacements.

Not just anyone can do this work, explains Thia, because a desire to teach children for free must come from the heart out of love.  

Chairman Tuấn said that the commune is looking for the right person to continue Thia’s meaningful work. — VNS