VIR's Swing for the Kids 2016 teed off

The annual golf tournament, Swing for the Kids 2016, has teed off, marking the 10th  year journey of a creditable charity event to support underprivileged students.

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This morning, former deputy prime minister Vu Khoan, former ministers of planning and investment Vo Hong Phuc and Bui Quang Vinh, chairwoman of BRG Group Nguyen Thi Nga, and general director of Samsung Electronics Vietnam Han Myoung Sup teed off first to start the tournament at Legend Hill Golf Resort in Hanoi’s Soc Son district, about 30 kilometres from the centre of Hanoi. Members of  diplomatic corps, government agencies and business communities also got into swinging.

Swing for the Kids 2016 tournament is divided into morning and afternoon sessions, welcoming 150 domestic and international golfers. According to VIR’s editor-in-chief Le Trong Minh, the tournament has raised VND1.5 billion ($67,300) to give scholarships to poor students from around Vietnam and help improve the facilities of many schools around the country. The organisers also gave the Vietnam Learning Promotion Association VND400 million ($18,000) from the above sum.

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Kicked-off by VIR in coordination with the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Foreign Investment Agency in June 2007, Swing for the Kids has seen the eager participation of over 1,000 golfers, including senior government officials, diplomats and business people.

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During the last nine years, the tournament has given over 12,000 scholarships with the total value of VND10.5 billion ($470,000) to poor but excellent students in Vietnam including about 17 full scholarships of VND10 million ($463) each. In particular, over 2,000 scholarships of totally about VND1.1 billion ($49,000) were given out in 2015.  The scholarships enabled poor students to continue their education and become contributing members of society.

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“The tournament this year is an important landmark in VIR’s history of a quarter of the century. Its success is going to be a meaningful present to celebrate VIR’s 25th anniversary on September 27, 2016,” said Nguyen Anh Tuan, chief organiser of the tournament, and VIR’s former editor-in-chief.

“The tournament, besides being a meaningful activity that contributes to society, is a bridge linking Vietnamese companies with international investors, international organisations, local authorities and government agencies, especially the Ministry of Planning and Investment,” said Nguyen Chi Dung, Minister of Planning and Investment.

This year, Swing for the Kids tournament has Diamond Sponsor Samsung Electronics Vietnam, Platinum Sponsor Vingroup, Gold Sponsors KinderWorld, Pegasus, and Cocacola.

Swing for the Kids’ founder 

brg-img5Duc Hanh talks to Nguyen Van Hao, former secretary general of the Vietnam Golf Association and co-founder of the VIR’s charity golf tournament Swing for the Kids.

How did you come up with the idea for VIR’s Swing for the Kids charity golf tournament?
Golf came to the country in 1994, when golf courses in the south of Vietnam, such as Song Be, Thu Duc and Dong Nai, as well as Dong Mo course in the north were licensed. By the end of the twentieth century, the number of golfers increased remarkably and many organisations had already chosen to raise money through golf tournaments, so it was not unusual to use the game to generate money for good causes.

At that time most players were diplomats, foreign experts at international organisations and foreign invested companies, or rich Vietnamese businessmen. This means their companies could afford to plough some of their profits into charity and social activities. At the time I thought it would be wonderful to couple golf with charity here in Vietnam.

VIR’s former editor-in-chief Nguyen Anh Tuan has said that he knew nothing about the sport when you came up with the idea of the tournament. Do you recall telling him about your plans?
Indeed, I remember that I presented him with a full set of golf clubs to practice with, but he left them in his mother-in-law’s house and his relatives probably still think it is a bag of guns!

Seriously though, back in early 2007, Nguyen Anh Tuan was deputy director of the Foreign Investment Agency and had also just been appointed by the Minister of Planning and Investment as VIR’s editor-in-chief.
On behalf of Prudential Vietnam, I visited him and we had a long talk about many things, and I suggested that we organise a proper charity golf tournament in the north of Vietnam. I remember he said, “Charity is good, but we do not really know anything about golf. Is it not too soon?”

I said no, and that I was ready to help organise this event. Phan Huu Thang, former director of the Foreign Investment Agency, was also there and he was already a golf enthusiast. We considered the idea and decided to have a charity golf tournament and agreed right away that the purpose should be to help fund students’ education.

How did you come up with the name ‘Swing for the Kids’?
When I was deputy general director of Prudential Vietnam, I once accompanied the former British Ambassador to Vietnam, Peter Williams, who was also an advisor to Prudential, on a visit to former Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Manh Cam. He was one of the first Vietnamese government officials that played golf and he promoted the sport’s development in Vietnam for to its manifold economic benefits. At the meeting, Cam suggested to Ambassador Williams that we should run a charity golf tournament. Following this, I told the leaders of Prudential that VIR’s editor-in-chief Tuan had already agreed to organise the event.

The name itself is simple. Golfers swing the club to strike the ball. Swing for the Kids just means swinging the clubs for children.
Once we named the event, we made a logo on the next day, and so the Swing for the Kids tournament was born. I am still very happy because children are still the ultimate beneficiaries of our work.

I want to add that there were some concerns that maybe the Ministry of Planning and Investment would not approve VIR’s proposal, but Minister Vo Hong Phuc agreed immediately, even though golf was a sensitive topic and he himself never played. This was a brave decision and his successor Bui Quang Vinh later reaffirmed the importance of golf.

Is this a common model of raising money for scholarships?
If I am not wrong, nobody did it before Swing for the Kids. Golf for charity is common around the world but it’s mostly professional golf. In terms of helping the community in a practical way through golf, it is fair to say that Vietnam was first.

How would you assess the success of the tournament over the last decade?
The effect on society has been widespread, but I would agree with former minister Vo Hong Phuc regarding the key importance of building a bridge between domestic and foreign investors.

Moreover, a charity golf tournament needs to be transparent. It is fair to say that some other tournaments use the event to benefit the organisers, but Swing for the Kids is different. The sponsorship money that organisers mobilised has always been used for the correct, stated purpose.

Additionally, for the country to get richer, the economy has to grow. Golf can facilitate this and the tournament has helped golf to grow in Vietnam.

What are your hopes for the future of the tournament?
I hope that the leaders of VIR and the organisation board of Swing for the Kids build on the values that we have established. Furthermore, I would love for VIR to have another charity golf tournament. We have Swing for the Kids to invest in people, perhaps we could have one more to invest in the cultural heritage of our nation.

I also hope that the tournament can play a role in getting the excise tax on golf lifted—with that the economy and therefore the society will draw greater benefits.

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