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Teaching almost 70 children to swim

There’s more to running a successful swim programme than simply getting children together with instructors. The programme has to run effectively, to teach the optimum number of children in a relatively short timeframe.

Which is why the help given by our trustee and former international swimming coach, Rob Hamilton,
was so invaluable, when he spent two weeks in Peru this year, supporting our eight-week
programme.

Rob was joined by volunteer Georgina Quayle, who is still out in Peru, and together they have
ensured this year’s programme – which runs for eight weeks during the children’s summer holidays
– has been an outstanding success.

Rob initially observed what the instructors were doing so he could understand their capabilities and
techniques. He then introduced some changes, largely around the organisation of the classes.
“They were teaching classes with significantly mixed abilities, so we reduced that diversity of level
and the age range for each group. We also set three classes per group, with one instructor with each
group, loosely aligned to beginners, improvers and more advanced.

“We covered all four strokes, and introduced some life-saving techniques, both for rescuing
someone and for self-rescue. We also made sure the same children had the same instructor and
issued all the children with swim caps and goggles.”

Georgina is spending a month in Peru, helping deliver lessons in the morning, from Mondays to
Thursdays. Each group of children has an hour-long lesson and comes twice a week.

Over the course of the programme, she and Rob are helping the local instructors to teach nearly 70
children. The pair are supporting two SwimTayka swim instructors, as well as a volunteer from
SwimTayka’s NGO partner in Peru, Otra Cosa Network (OCN).

Georgina, a full-time data manager and qualified swimming teacher, is volunteering in Peru during a
work sabbatical.

She said: “My role here is different to roles I have had teaching and coaching swimming in the UK.
This is my first time instructing instructors, and of course there is a language difference, but I have
been taking Spanish classes and I am learning a lot of Spanish swimming terminology.”
Georgina feels the swimming lessons are making a difference to the children’s confidence around
water.

“I was speaking to one of the mums, who said her children had been very fearful to start with but
she has seen them become more confident and says they are enjoying the sessions. I’d love it if we
could help the parents too, because the fear of the parents often transfers to the children.”
This initial fear was very apparent in one of the children, Nicholas, who is 14.

Georgina said: “When he arrived, he was scared to get into the water or to even walk through the
water, without holding on to the side. As he is learning English and was telling us that he knew how
to swim before but felt frustrated that he had forgotten.

“A few weeks in, and he is now doing push and glides, kicking on his front and back without floats,
and picking up sinkers from under water, and today he said ‘thank you so much teacher’.”

Rob has also seen a shift among the teachers in appreciating what the children can achieve. “We
wanted to start teaching butterfly. One of the instructors said they wouldn’t be strong enough but
within the space of ten minutes they were doing a form of butterfly.

“The instructors have felt really empowered. We were doing life-saving, and I encouraged one of the
instructors to feel confident to take the session because she had all the skills needed. It was amazing
to watch the transformation in her teaching.”

Georgina would definitely recommend volunteering to others. “It’s been an incredible experience. If
we can bring the skills of teaching swimming and curate learn-to-swim programmes into
environments where many children do not know how to swim, it is beneficial. It has been a
memorable experience. It’s carnival month here and there have been many free events, such as a
dance festival and orchestra in the church, and something to go and see every day.”

A final word from Rob: “The people have been great, the hospitality is amazing, the food is amazing,
and the great thing about OCN is that everybody gets drawn in and it is a real community.”

Are you interested in making a difference to the lives of children and helping them learn to swim?
Why not find out more about volunteering on one of our programmes? Get in touch and we can
answer all your questions.