Lutheran South opens swimming program for refugees

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AFFTON, MO - Children from refugee families are learning how to swim thanks to a program from Lutheran High School South.

Members of the Lutheran South swim team are teaching about 40 kids from refugee families how to swim.

Today was the third week in a four-week program.

Lutheran South junior Stephanie Kohm is leading the project.

“I hope that they 'a' have a really good time which I think that they do and 'b' come away with some life-saving skills,” said Kohm.

This is the third year for the program.

It was developed out of tragedy.

Back in June of 2016 18-year-old Henry Manu from Liberia, who was going to be a senior at Lutheran South, drowned while in the Meramec River at Castlewood State Park.

Henry`s cousin who was with him, Samuel Neal, drowned as well.

A third person survived.

Neither Henry nor Samuel could swim.

The Lutheran South community wanted to do something to remember Henry and try to prevent a similar tragedy from happening again, hence this program was born.

It`s benefitting kids like Adaga Osman and Aleka Tuka.

They are both 11 and from Ethiopia and both couldn`t swim until this program.

Now they`re learning fast and loving it.

“They teach how to breathe underwater, float, kick with the boards,” said Aleka.

Adaga added, “It had been good because I did not know to swim before but now I do.”

The kids are from the Christian friends of New Americans, a south St. Louis group that helps refugees.

The children learning to swim range from kindergarteners to seniors in high school.

Carol Buchman is with Christian Friends of New Americans.

She knew Henry and calls this program critical for all of the children involved.

Carol told us, “They`re so happy. They`re enjoying it so much. They`re learning to know each other in a very realistic way and when you get to know somebody you learn to love them.”

“I would say that this could be very life-saving if necessary,” said Kohm.

Many of the children are refugees themselves, some were born in the U.S but their parents are refugees.

We`re told many come from African countries but some come from other areas including Syria, Nepal, and Vietnam.

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