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Partnering with a swim project in Jamaica

At SwimTakya, we’re delighted to have formed a new partnership with another organisation which puts teaching swimming right at its heart.

The charity is called Likkle Swimmers, and it runs a swimming teaching programme for local children at Treasure Beach, in Jamaica.

We can’t wait to cement the partnership and start helping this fantastic project, which every year teaches dozens of children to swim.

Treasure Beach itself is a glorious, sandy shoreline, stretching for around six miles, with four main bays. But danger lurks below, and the riptide has taken several lives over the years.

In fact, it was just such a tragedy that prompted founder, Charlotte Holt, to set up Likkle Swimmers in 2017, when she was in her early 20s. Here’s her story…

Drowning prevention in Jamaica

Charlotte is a Great Ormond Street hospital play specialist, helping prepare young patients for kidney transplants.

“I’ve never done competitive swimming or anything like that, but I’ve always been a massive fan of the water. As a kid, whenever we went on beach trips or holidays, it was always me in the freezing cold sea.”

Charlotte

At the University of the West of England, Charlotte took early childhood studies but, unlike many of her uni friends, decided she didn’t want to go into teaching.

So while she was working out what she wanted to do, she applied for a role as a nanny, looking after two boys aged three and four. 

The family she worked for had suffered a tragedy. They had been on holiday to Treasure Beach – where they went regularly – and the boys’ father had drowned. The four-year-old was paddling in the sea, when he was suddenly caught by the rip. His father swam out to save him, and in doing so lost his own life.

“As a first nannying job it was hard, because of what the boys had been through, but also really rewarding to be there to help them.”

The family holidayed again at Treasure Beach, taking Charlotte along with them, and she fell in love with the location.

“It’s a beautiful place where the tourists are all part of the village community, and everyone is so welcoming.”

Charlotte decided to go back to live for three months at Treasure Beach, getting involved in helping at the schools.

She also volunteered to take registrations for the local triathlon, which happens to be the world’s longest off road triathlon. She noticed very few local children were signing up and the penny dropped – the local children couldn’t swim.

When Charlotte returned to the UK, with the encouragement of her father, she set up Likkle Swimmers, with the goal of teaching swimming to children living at Treasure Beach.

Charlotte and two others were given funding to train as swimming teachers, and in their first year ran a three month programme, teaching children aged three to nine years old.

Word soon got around and, four years on, the scheme has been a huge success. Unicef has even funded a pool for the village.

Part of the ethos of Likkle Swimmers is to provide local employment, and right from the start the services of local lifeguards were engaged. In 2018, ten Jamaicans were trained up as assistants and, in 2019, they qualified as swimming teachers.

“Having local people is also brilliant, because sometimes what we are trying to do gets lost in translation. For example, we were saying to the children ‘kick your leg’ but in Jamaica they say ‘kick your foot’. They put us right, and now we always say ‘kick your foot’.”

2020 put paid to any lessons, due to Covid, but this summer Charlotte was out there again, to reboot the programme.

Now Charlotte’s aim is to take the model and repeat it in other locations in Jamaica, which is where SwimTayka – with our experience of running swimming programmes – hope to be able to help.

“We feel we have a really successful programme, but we need to drive it forward in a new direction. We do so much for this one community, but there is much more to give and we are really excited for the future.”

If you are interested in finding out more about the Likkle Swimmers partnership with SwimTayka, or any of the other programmes we run around the world, please get in touch.