To his grandchildren, he’s Grandad Bryan who takes them swimming. To SwimTayka, he’s the
founder and driving force behind our charity, which has one core value: no child should be denied
access to drowning prevention and swimming lessons because of their economic status.
That’s a tall order, but we are working hard and we already partner with NGOs and local charities in
five countries – Peru, Jamaica, Indonesia, Mozambique and Brazil – teaching children to swim and
instilling in them drowning prevention skills.
2021 was a big year for drowning prevention: the UN adopted an historic resolution, committing to
greater efforts to prevent drowning.
Bryan Avery was ahead of the game. He set up SwimTayka on 7 December 2017 (we’ve just had our
fouth birthday) and since then, despite the interruption of Covid, we have enlisted hundreds of
volunteers to travel overseas and work with our partners, running swimming programmes. 2022
promises to be an even bigger year.
But just what inspired Bryan, a 53 -year-old (we’re sure he won’t mind us mentioning his age) IT
consultant, to set up SwimTayka?
Bryan’s first dip in UK waters: it was cold!
The son of a Navy officer, Bryan learnt to swim at the very young age of two or three, in the balmy
waters of Singapore where his father was posted.
His next home was in Fife, Scotland, where he was introduced to indoor pools. He was less than
impressed and decided swimming was no longer for him.
“Pools back then, in the Seventies, were like echo chambers, and very uninviting places. It was
horrible, so I wouldn’t go again.”
Finally, at the tender age of around ten, Bryan was persuaded back into the water. Now living in
Kent, his school ran swimming lessons and Bryan had to participate. He was told to swim 25m, but
decided to keep going for 400m.
The swimming bug had well and truly bitten, so he joined a swimming club, and also the Kent branch
of the Royal Life Saving Society, where he took part in competitive lifesaving events.
His first experience of cold-water swimming was in the sea, one Boxing Day. It was a very icy
introduction but this time Bryan wasn’t put off. In fact, by 14 – the minimum age allowed – he was
patrolling the beaches of Sheerness at weekends, volunteering as a lifeguard (and yes, he has met
Swimming is truly a lifetime passion. When he was 17 or 18, he went to a swim meet at Dover
harbour and saw a swimmer, younger than himself, training for a Channel crossing. He vowed then
that one day he would complete this challenge, and in 2013 he finally got to fulfil his dream,
completing the swim in 14 hours and 32 minutes. Indeed, Bryan has gone on become one of an exclusive group of
Three Crowns swimmer, by completing the English Channel, a swim around Manhattan Island and
the Catalina Channel.
“I had a passion for swimming and, without me knowing it, I was encouraging people to try open
water swimming. Because I enjoyed it so much, they came with me, and as a result I knew this
passion would pull people along. It’s been really important in driving SwimTayka.”
The foundation of SwimTayka
So, neatly back to SwimTayka. In 2016, Bryan went travelling and spent three months in Peru. He
volunteered with the NGO Otra Cosa Network (who are still our partners there), to help with their IT
and with swimming lessons for the children.
“I realised the children weren’t really having swimming lessons. The volunteers were taking them to
the beach and letting them play in the water, so really they were being guardians and not
Bryan then raised some funds to pay to transport children to and from a local pool, and proceeded
to teach them to swim. He had to learn some Spanish and he used flashcards to help. In that short
time, he set up a swimming programme.
“After that I looked around to see if there were any organisations to help NGOs or charities working
with young children living near rivers, lakes or oceans and couldn’t find any. The main reason they
didn’t teach swimming was a lack of qualified instructors, so that’s where SwimTayka would help, by
finding volunteer swim teachers.”
SwimTayka is now four years old, and we are growing fast. We need volunteers – and, if you would
like to volunteer, please check out our programmes – and we are also looking to expand our team. In
this way we can raise more funds, partner with more NGOs and, of course, reach more children.
We developing a campaigning focus, by appointing a campaign manager for the countries we work
in, who will promote drowning prevention by getting government, businesses, local authorities and
schools on board. This brings us in line with the UN’s guidance.
And of course, we want to get into new locations, such as Nepal, Mongolia and Vanuatu, as well as
expand our existing projects. Like we said, no child should be denied the opportunity to learn to
swim or to learn drowning-prevention skills and, with your help, they won’t be.
To find out more about what we do, and how you can help – whether as a volunteer, or if you want
to sign up to one of our fundraising events, or perhaps run a fundraising event of your own – then
please get in touch. We would love to hear from you.