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30/01/2020 - 08:58

Graham’s “predestined fate” with Hue

Coming to Hue in 2006 as a volunteer English tutor for children at the provincial Center for Nurturing and Community Service, Graham Buckley - Director of Hue Help Foundation, did not expect this to be a start for his predestined fate with Hue. The fate was so great that he decided to leave England for Hue permanently because “wherever I go, I just want to go back to Hue,” told Graham in quite fluent Vietnamese.

Graham poses for a photo with a child on their tour to Cham Islands

Friendliness, openness and love for children are what everyone can feel when they have an opportunity to meet Graham. Recently, he often goes back and forth to schools in Hue to train drowning prevention skills for children - a project he is fond of and has long cherished...

500 and 11,000

500 is the number of primary teachers who have been trained for swimming, water safety and rescue skills as a part of Hue Help Foundation’s Swimming for Safety Program - an initiative by Graham. The teachers then trained more than 11,000 children in their schools for safe swimming and drowning prevention skills.

So far, more than 11,000 children in Vietnam can swim thanks to the Swimming for Safety Program. Not a small number at all!

“Vietnam’s child drowning rate is the highest one in Southeast Asia. About 9 children drowned every day, or about 2,000 children drowned a year. That is why we want to implement the Swimming for Safety Program to help reduce the number of child drownings in Vietnam. The program has been operated since 2011,” said Graham.

In the summer of 2019 only, Hue Help's Swimming for Safety program was combined with the climate change project of the Luxembourg Development Cooperation Agency to train 1,200 students and 30 teachers of 10 primary schools in 3 districts of Quang Dien, Phu Vang and Phu Loc. Currently, the project is about to be completed in the 3 districts and will continue to be implemented in other districts of the province.

Graham (wearing glasses) is teaching a child of the Nurturing and Community Service Center (in blue life-vest) how to swim during their tour to Cham Islands

Mostly done in open waters (such as ponds, lakes, rivers, streams, seas, lagoons), Graham's swimming instruction model is inexpensive and appropriate for many areas like rural areas. “Hue Help really wants to replicate this model so that when the program is over, schools can organize swimming lessons for their students. The number of 500 teachers and 11,000 children trained is quite large, but compared to the number of children drowned in Vietnam, it is still modest and like a drop in the ocean. Hopefully in the future, the model will be expanded to more schools and more students will learn to swim,” continued Graham.

Predestined fate with Hue

In 2006, as a volunteer to teach English to orphans at the provincial Center for Nurturing and Community Service, Graham recognized the poor living conditions of the children at the center and started to raise fund with his friends to help them. It was then that he had an idea to establish Hue Help Foundation and soon after, Hue Help came into being.

From 2007 to 2016, Graham had gone to Hue several times a year to carry out his work at Hue Help though he was still attending university and working in the UK. At the end of 2016, Graham decided to stay permanently in Hue to focus on the charitable projects that he devoted.

Children at the Center for Nurturing and Community Service love and enjoy playing with Graham

 “From the first time I came to Hue, I had the opportunity to meet very good friends and stayed with a Hue family. I like the pace of life in Hue and its history, and culture. Hue’s rivers, mountains and nature are very beautiful and the food is incredibly delicious,” said Graham. Having traveled to many places in Vietnam, Graham and his wife also lived in Danang city for 9 months but returned to Hue on weekends to enjoy Hue’s space. “We decided to return to Hue because Hue was like our home. Wherever we go, we just want to go back to Hue,” said Graham in satisfaction while holding his wife’s hands.

Before saying goodbye to me, Graham revealed: “This Tet my wife and I will celebrate the Tet in Hue with our newly born baby. In the last two years, I spent Tet in Hanoi with my family-in-law. This is the first time we experience the Tet of Hue. It must be happy and memorable...”

“Only can education help children have a bright future. In the old days, all of them dropped out of school very early. Many of them left the center without a job when they were 18 years old. Since Hue Help Foundation has focused on education activities, many students have gone to university and had stable jobs in Hue city, and Ho Chi Minh City. For those who did not go to college, Hue Help supported them to get vocational trainings and most of the graduates had jobs in the hospitality industry in Hoi An, Danang, Laguna Hue, and even in Singapore,” told Graham with enthusiasm.

“I have met Graham so many times since 2007. Graham is very sociable, light-hearted and enthusiastic. He especially loves Hue that even though he loved and got married to a girl from the North, he still wanted to live and work in Hue. In his work, Graham always tries his best and determines that all project activities must prioritize children’s interests. The projects that he is working on are aimed at those such as caring, nurturing, training in life skills and survival skills... for disadvantaged and orphaned children. Although his project scales and budgets are not large, they are implemented quite professionally and effectively, and brought positive and practical impacts on the targeted community…”

Vo Dinh Anh Tuan – Secretary General and Chief of the Office of Thua Thien Hue Union of Friendship Organizations (HueFO)

Story: Ngoc Ha – Photo: G. Buckley