SwimTayka partnered with ETIV do Brasil this year to offer free swimming lessons and environmental conservation classes to children and youth living in Itacaré, Bahia, Brazil. This was such an incredible experience for the children here, primarily because ETIV is located in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Itacaré and most of the children here have never had the opportunity to take swimming lessons, and some of the children were even afraid of the water when the programme first started!
Bahia is known to have some of the worst statistics regarding education, health care, teenage pregnancy and trafficking, although Itacaré is perceived as being a tropical paradise that has also become one of the best surf destinations in Brazil. Consequently, tourism keeps growing in Itacaré and has become the top economic driver here. However, this tourism also has its consequences as the growing surf/party culture has significantly increased the prevalence of gangs, drugs and violence in the poorer neighbourhoods of Itacaré. This is why ETIV mainly focuses on offering positive and healthy educational programme to the children and youth. Most of the children involved in their programmes are between the ages of 6 and 13, which is the perfect age to get them connected to positive mentors and opportunities; before the gang and drug culture may try to influence on them.
The partnership with SwimTayka was such a blessing for their community this year. They were able to hire a coordinator and a lead swim teacher for the project. They also had six different volunteers that supported the Swimming lessons and the environmental training, including one local volunteer and five other volunteers that came from 5 different countries including the US, Mexico, France, Uruguay, Brazil and Ireland. The children here were so thrilled to participate in this programme that it allowed us to engage with many new children who previously were not involved with ETIV already. Meanwhile, some of the children went from being scared of even putting their face in the water to thoroughly knowing how to swim by the end of the two-month programme! And considering that they live right next to the river and close to where the river meets the ocean, knowing how to swim is very important, and they also taught the children about drowning prevention and how to recognise the dangers that water can pose.
The swimming lessons and environmental training took place four days a week beginning in April and ending in June 2018. They had 18 children that made the swimming lessons and over 30 children that participated in the SwimTayka environmental classes, that were all focused on the world’s water. All of the classes environmental lessons took place in the ETIV learning space, or outside in nature. On Earth Day they organised a special event with the community that included games and songs in support of environmental conservation, a recycling competition and a “Brazil Top Model” of reused and natural clothing competition! Then they ended the day splitting up into small groups to plant mangrove seedlings by the Contas River before sharing cake and plastic-free snacks together.
For the last two weeks of class, they planned two field trips, allowing the children to put their swimming skills to use in open water. The first field trip was to Ribeira beach, where the river is dammed just before it enters the ocean, creating a calm pool of water where many locals love to swim.
Their second field trip was also their last day of the SwimTayka programme and it was also International Oceans Day! They took the children to Concha beach, the calmest of all the beaches in Itacaré, and there they had organised water games and a swimming competition and then gave out awards and ended the day with a picnic and cake to celebrate. These field trips were the highlight of the programme, allowing the children to show off their skills in open water and visit some of the beaches that are so close, and yet not accessible to many of them. While waiting for the bus to pick us up at the ETIV house, the children were so excited that they were singing, dancing and bursting with joy at the opportunity! Overall, the entire programme was such a beautiful experience for ETIV and the children they serve. They are so proud and forever grateful for their partnership with SwimTayka, and we are excited to continue the work next year and hopefully long into the future as well!