Teaching the teachers: how volunteers are supporting our Mozambique programme

A vital part of running programmes with our partner projects around the world is providing quality swim instruction to the children – which is where some of our volunteers come in. 

The focus of our partner in Mozambique – Love the Oceans – is to support the local community in establishing a Marine Protected Area in the Inhambane Province, along the coastline of Guinjata. Teaching swimming is one small part of this bigger project, which is putting environmental concerns for marine life at its heart.

So recently, SwimTayka trustee Rob Hamilton flew out to spend four weeks at our project in Mozambique, to teach the Love the Oceans swim teachers. Volunteering alongside Rob was Mya Clark, who was out there for two weeks teaching the children to swim.

Rob’s goal was to help the swimming teachers working with Love the Oceans to learn instruction techniques, so they could get children swimming quickly.

And he certainly has the credentials. A former international swimming coach, Rob has coached three butterfly swimmers who reached the Sydney Olympics trials in 2000 and he has run a swim school, where 800 children a week were taking part in a learn-to-swim programme. 

Mya, from Lincolnshire, is a qualified lifeguard and swim teacher, and has just graduated from University of Sheffield, where she studied law and criminology. She’s now working with a rehabilitation charity, supporting people coming out of prison, but was looking for a summer experience where she could put her swimming skills to good use.

“I saw the information posted up at university and thought it looked amazing,” she said. “I was going for the Bali project but the dates didn’t work, so picked Mozambique, and it’s incredible.”

In his first two weeks alone, Rob delivered a swimming teachers’ course and a pool lifeguarding course.

“Two of the three instructors had little knowledge of teaching at all, so with them I was starting from scratch,” said Rob. “creating strong swimmers teaching is important in the local area to improve on water safety within the community.”

This is no idle boast – Mya has seen Rob in action!

She said: “The swim instructor’s son came to see us, who’s four years old, and Rob really did get him swimming in 20 minutes. It was incredible. I take a bit longer than that, but then Rob has been teaching for a lot more years than me!”

Children taking part are aged from about four to 15 and Mya found it surprising how little they knew about swimming. 

“We start by getting their confidence up, so they are able to put their heads and faces in the water. As you move on you get them comfortable using a float lying on their back, and front, and then they progress to breathing techniques, breaststroke and so on. They are not shy of us at all, they are very keen to learn.”

For each child, the swimming programme lasts six days, during which time they will go from complete non-swimmer to improver level. Each day, Mya and Rob are teaching 75 children. To reach the pool, many of the children are being collected in the back of a pickup truck – they can get about 44 in each journey, so the kids are literally piled in!

Mya and Rob don’t speak the local language, Portuguese, but manage to communicate with the children using hand gestures. The other instructors have a good understanding of English, and Pascal – the programme coordinator who will be taking over from Rob – has a good level of English. 

Both Mya and Rob have thoroughly enjoyed their experience and would recommend it anyone thinking of volunteering. They hope to return in the future.

Rob said: “I’ll be coming back next year to develop the programme, but in the meantime Pascal will oversee it. The level of hospitality is incredible. We all sit down together for a meal at the end of the day. There are lots of people here doing different things – microbiologists, marine biologists and so on – but it’s important to Francesca, who runs Love the Oceans, that we all mix in together.”

If you like the sound of helping with our Mozambique project in 2023, then you can find out more here or get in touch with the team for a chat.