Just another day at the office for Mozambique volunteers
The expression ‘thrown in at the deep end’ certainly applies to SwimTayka volunteers, taking part in our swimming project in Mozambique.
You can take that phrase literally or metaphorically, because volunteers who join SwimTayka on the beautiful coastline of Guinjata get as immersed in the local community as they do in the water, giving swimming lessons to local children.
Our partner in Mozambique is Love the Oceans, which is setting up a Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA) using a bottom-up, community-led approach through research and educational outreach.
The Love the Oceans team run a whole host of projects, of which teaching children to swim is one important element and that’s where the SwimTayka volunteers come in. Drowning is a preventable cause of death for children – they just need the opportunity to learn to swim.
New year, new pool
So what will you get to do and see as one of our volunteer swimming instructors?
First and foremost, you’re there to teach swimming and – fingers crossed – by August 2021 this will be in a brand new pool built using donations from, among others, the Duchess of Sussex!
Through social media, Meghan Markle learnt about Love the Oceans’ fundraising for a new swimming pool to teach children and – as she was then helping Archie to take his first strokes in the water – she generously made a donation.
Most of the funds, though, were raised by Love the Oceans’ ambassador Ursula, so in tribute, the new pools – one full-sized pool, and one deeper plunge pool – will be called Archie and Ursi. Cute!
So why do the children need a new pool? Love the Oceans founder Francesca Trotman explains.
“The pool we have been using is in a resort about 45 minutes’ drive away, so all we can do is pile the kids into a truck, take them there in one trip, give them their lessons, then bring them back. This doesn’t work too well for some of our families. For example, we had three cousins wanting to come, but their Mum couldn’t spare all three of them at once – she needed two to help at home, so only one was able to learn at a time, as they’d be gone all afternoon.
“We asked the elders – who are like the mayors – if we could have a location that is right between the two schools, so it is ideal for children to just walk to the swim lessons themselves, have their half-hour slot, and then walk home. This also means we can teach far more children, as we won’t need to travel.”
The swimming programme
During the school winter holiday in August is when most lessons are delivered, and SwimTayka swim instructor volunteers play a key role. More than 200 children can be taught to swim in this two week period. The rest of the year, lessons are held at weekends.
Francesca said: “It is tiring but incredibly rewarding too. The kids love it! They regard learning to swim as a real privilege and enjoy being in the water.”
There is much more to the programme than simply helping children learn to swim, although ensuring they are safe in water and drowning prevention is at the heart.
Eventually, the programme will be self-sustaining, as swim graduates can go on to be lifeguards and swim instructors themselves, working at the pool or within the tourism industry, which is so important to the area.
Marine conservation – the central theme of Love the Oceans’ philosophy – is also promoted by teaching children to swim, by enabling them to enjoy the ocean safely and hopefully fostering a passion for it.
Watch this video about the current swimming programme that they have done to date, and now the programme is expanding further with your help.
The Mozambique volunteer experience
Volunteers’ time in Mozambique isn’t limited to swimming lessons. The experience starts with a cultural tour, where our volunteers spend time learning a little about the area and how people live – including trying to balance water carriers on their heads as they walk back from the nearby well, where they’ve pumped the water.
If you are a volunteer, you’ll find out about plant and marine life, how to weave palm leaves and even judge when a coconut is ripe.
You’ll eat the locally sourced food – mainly vegan, and based on Manioc (Cassava) and nuts – using the philosophy of farm to food, to support the local economy. At night, you’ll sleep in palm leaf huts, under mosquito nets – and everyone sleeps very well after a long day of swimming lessons.