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Photographer showcases SwimTayka’s drowning prevention work

Thanks to the talents of photographer John Peltier, we have a fantastic gallery of images from our programme in Peru – the first we have been able to run for two years, due to Covid.

Working with Photographers Without Borders, John spent time with SwimTayka in the coastal city of Huanchaco. Here, we partner with Otra Cosa Network, an NGO which runs programmes for local children focusing on literacy, environmental awareness, sustainability and drowning prevention (which is where we come in).

John is a California-based documentary photographer, working with humanitarian and environmental organisations, and also teaches photography. He was attracted to the SwimTayka project because the ethos and subject matter appealed to him.

After a few weeks of swim lessons with Swim Tayka, students are brought to the beach to put their skills to use and become more comfortable in bigger water. This swimmer has actually been in the program for five years and hopes to become a competitive swimmer. She can swim all styles but freestyle is her favorite. She loves how swimming makes her feel healthy, happy, and relaxed.

“Photographers Without Borders lists available assignments, and I saw there was an assignment in coastal Peru, for drowning prevention, and that was right up my alley, so I signed up for it. Later I found out it was for SwimTayka,” said John.

“Being from California, I am a water person. I just love being around the ocean and water, and I lived on a sailing boat for a while. I also taught swim lessons when I was in college.”

John spent two-and-a-half-weeks in Peru, living with the volunteers in their volunteer house and photographing them teaching children how to swim, how to be safe in and around water and drowning prevention.

“I didn’t know what to expect, but it really reminded me of the days when I was a swim teacher; the progression, where you start with children who aren’t comfortable in the water at all, then within a few days they are swimming without flotation devices and are really confident.”

While he was taking photos, John was able to spend time talking to the parents, students and instructors. The parents, in particular, were delighted, he said, since Covid has kept schools closed for so long.

One of Swim Tayka’s advanced swimmers beginning laps in the breaststroke. She has been in these swim classes for five years now and has hopes of becoming a competitive swimmer one day.

“They are extremely grateful for the chance for their children to get out and socialise, have fun and do something active, but learn a really important skill at the same time. Both the parents and the children understand the importance of learning to swim, not just so they can safely go to the beach but because this skill might save their lives one day, or save others’ lives.”

This is the second assignment John has taken through Photographers Without Borders, the first being to Uganda in 2019. In fact, he was due to visit SwimTayka in Peru in 2020, but his trip was delayed by two years because of the pandemic.

He’s been so impressed by what he has seen, he hopes to go again.

“I’d been to Peru before and done the tourist thing, but hadn’t visited Huanchaco. It’s such an interesting city, with so much history and rich surfing heritage, with so many environmental threats, and I saw how all of those were tied into SwimTayka’s mission.

“I am planning a return on my own to do a follow up. There’s a larger story in that city. I had a good introduction and I would love to go back and go deeper. By then it will be SwimTayka’s fifth year, and hopefully be self-sustaining.”

One of Swim Tayka’s instructors help the beginner students refine their arm stroke technique during one of their first lessons without a kick board.

John is spot on, here. The plan with our programme in Peru, as with all our programmes – in Brazil, Indonesia, Mozambique and Jamaica – is for them eventually to become self-sustaining after five years, with local people taking charge.

John applauds this ethos. “I’ve photographed a similar project in Haiti, where an NGO raised money to send local people to the United States, so they could learn to become swim instructors, then go back home and teach. 

“Drowning is the third biggest cause of non-violent accidental death, and SwimTayka are doing a great job in tackling this, through the work they do.”

If you would like to find out more about SwimTayka’s programmes, or how to volunteer as a swim instructor, please get in touch.