San Diego

Volunteers Organize Swim Lessons for Syrian Refugees After Teen Drowns in Mission Beach

The teenage refugee is presumed dead after drowning in Mission Beach. Now, his family wants to teach other refugees how to swim to avoid a similar tragedy

A Syrian teenager, who arrived to San Diego as a refugee nearly three months ago, drowned during his first visit to a California beach. Now, his family wants to teach other refugees how to swim to avoid a similar tragedy.

Mohammed Mostafa, 17, was swept away Sunday in a strong rip current in Mission Beach.

Mostafa's family of seven moved to San Diego as refugees nearly three months ago. 

Denise Preston, along with other volunteers with Hearts4Refugees are making sure another life isn't lost by organizing swimming lessons for all Syrian refugees.

She and her family have volunteered as an “adopted” family for the Mostafa's since they arrived in San Diego late January.

"I think they just felt so happy to be given a second chance in a place that was safe for their family," Preston said.

But Mohammed's death was a devastating setback after a road of challenges. 

The family left Aleppo three years ago in the middle of the war, then crossed into Turkey where they stayed until recently.

This was Mohammed's first time going into the ocean.

Preston recalled when she received the shattering news.

"That morning I had a text message that said, 'Please help us. My brother sank in the sea,'" she told NBC 7, holding back tears.

Now, the community is stepping up.

The YMCA in City Heights is offering its pool for swim lessons, along with people all over San Diego who have pools at their homes.

The swimming classes will begin in the next couple of weeks. Organizers are expecting close to 1,000 Syrian refugees to take part.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to help Mohammed's family during this difficult time.

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