Meet Indira and Pandit: from non-swimmers to project champions

If there is one thing the swimming programmes we work with at SwimTayka have in common, it’s this: what they do goes far beyond just teaching children to swim.

All the programmes aim to give back to the communities in which they are based, and that invariably includes providing employment opportunities to local people.

Often those who learn to swim will go on to become swim teachers themselves, either with the organisation, or privately, or both.

SwimDo in Bali, Indonesia, is a great example and we’ve chatted with two of its swim ‘graduates’ who now work with the project.

So, meet Indira Sandit and Pandit Agung, who have been involved with SwimDo right from the beginning and have gone from being swimming sceptics to water babies.

It was in 2012 that Indira and Pandit met SwimDo founder Seamus Pettigrew. They all became firm friends and hung out together.

Indira and Pandit took Seamus to meet their families and to introduce him to Bali culture. 

Seamus took them to the beach.

“He said ‘let’s go out to the water and I’ll teach you how to surf’ and we said ‘are you crazy? We’ll go under!’ ” said Indira. “The current at the beach in our village is so strong and the waves are so big mostly only pro surfers go there. We couldn’t even swim!”

Pandit added: “We have almost no education about water safety here. We didn’t even know what water safety was! Nothing from school, nothing from the community, and children just didn’t learn how to swim.”

Indira said: “We had a few swimming lessons when we were in junior high school, where they teach around 40 students at once, but only about once a month so nobody really learnt how to swim. They were next to useless.”

Gradually, the idea of founding SwimDo was born. Seamus decided to teach the local children to swim, but first he had to get some practice in and he started with Indira, Pandit and some of their friends.

Indira said: “We’re the first students of SwimDo. We were learning in a pool and we found it really hard and very tiring, but of course now we can swim.”

Pandit and Indira helped forge links between SwimDo and the local community, to explain the organisation’s plans for teaching children not just swimming but also water safety and drowning prevention.

Now the programme uses an Australian curriculum. Pandit said: “We started with adults and our friends, then we looked at teaching children aged around five, but they were a bit young and they didn’t always behave well, so then we settled on children aged from around nine to 13.”

Pandit is now a qualified swim instructor, and is also SwimDo’s treasurer. Indira’s role at SwimDo is administration, liaising with the community and reaching out to new communities who could benefit. She also helps out with swim teaching.

In the six years it has been running (with an interruption due to Covid), almost 2,000 children have been taught to swim. As well as learning to swim, they learn about water safety and what to do if they see someone drowning.

SwimDo has expanded beyond Bali, with a programme in Borneo and plans for one in East Timor.

The organisation is also looking into transport so it can reach children from further afield, taking them to and from the lessons. Many lessons take place in pools, but some are taught in lakes or rivers.

And the children clearly love the lessons – although they may not realise they are having a lesson. Pandit explained: “If we tell the children they are having lessons on water safety and drowning prevention they say ‘what’s that’ and don’t seem interested. But if we say ‘you’re going to have fun, play in the water, and swim for free’ they say ‘great, we’ll definitely come’.”

Are you interested in helping Pandit, Indira and Seamus to teach even more children to swim in Bali? Our programme is starting up again in July 2022, and you can find information here and register your interest.

If you want to know a little more about the volunteer experience in Bali, then check out a previous blog.