SwimTayka is non-profit organisation saving lives by teaching underprivileged children to swim
When Bryan Avery, a man who has swum not only the English Channel but also around the island of Manhattan, New York; across the Catalina Channel, of the coast of California and around the island of Kho Tao, Thailand, decided it was time to give back to swimming and help the children from deprived areas of the world to swim, he did so in a big way.
From his long swims and travelling around the world, Bryan discovered that many children living in poorer communities by the water didn’t know how to swim. The ultra-marathon swimmer decided he’d better figure out how to teach them – and while he was as it, he decided to incorporate local conservation efforts into the agenda too.
So SwimTayka was born. It is a non-profit organisation that provides free swimming lessons and education for clean water stewardship to underprivileged children that live near rivers, lakes and oceans. It was an idea that came to fruition when Bryan met triathlete and environmental mediator Dena Marshall, on Lake Titicaca, Bolivia, where they swam from Isla del Sol to Isla de la Luna (the sun to the moon).
“We discussed how waterside areas like the communities along Lake Titicaca, coastal Peru and inland Bolivia, were thickly populated yes few people were swimming,” Bryan says. “That, coupled with the fact that the waters themselves were heavily contaminated while water sources were being depleted and fought over, only strengthened our resolve.”
Combining their passions for open water swimming and environmental stewardship, Dena and Bryan collaborated to create a way to send qualified instructors to poor communities around the world where their services are needed. As a nod to the way a mother teaches her child life skills and the importance of environmental respect, they came up wit the name “SwimTayka”, (“Tayka” in honour f the word for “mother” in Aymara, a dominate indigenous language of the Andean region).
Instruction is geared towards children ages 3 to 6 with a more progressive teaching programme aimed at children 7 to 16 years old. And while learning to swim is at the forefront of SwimTayka’s mission teaching environmental water stewardship, local water issues and solutions is at the heart of the programme.
“We see that environmental water stewardship goes hand in hand with swimming,” Bryan says. “If you care about the water, the water will take care of you. And let’s face it, no one wants to swim in dirty water.”
In addition to teaching children how to swim and about the importance of ocean conservation both on a national and local level, the programme also influences its students to tap into their newfound love for the water in not only their everyday life but also in their career choices.
“Once local people can swim and understand the principles of water preservation, it can open doors to future jobs for them such as lifesaving, swimming instructors, scuba diving instructors, etc” Bryan says. “It’s a bit too soon to see any significant changes in the communities we serve as we have only been going 12 months, but on visits to the beach, we do see the children picking up litter and disposing of t correctly. It starts with the small things and that in itself means a whole lot less rubbish in the ocean. These children are becoming more aware of the environment around them, and new opportunities will open up for them for the future.”
Want to become a part of the SwimTayka family or donate to the cause
Visit their website at SwimTayka.org
This article was originally published in the Outdoor Swimmer, August 2017