Learning to swim and learning to care for the environment are back on the curriculum, as our swim lessons once again make a splash in Brazil.
Thanks to the SwimTayka partnership with ETIV do Brasil, children living in and around Itacaré, Bahia, on Brazil’s beautiful Cocoa Coast, are now taking part in our swimming programme and learning this essential life skill.
After a two-year break due to the pandemic, our programme is able to go ahead this year thanks to a generous donation from The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation. Princess Charlene, a former Olympic swimmer, set up her Foundation in 2012, and since then close to 900,000 people have benefitted from the Learn to Swim, Water Safety and Sport & Education programmes, in 40 countries.
We caught up with Emilie, one of the volunteers who is helping to run the SwimTayka programme. Hailing from Germany, Emilie has just finished high school and was looking for a volunteer position before going on to university, so is spending a year with ETIV.
Emilie helps our SwimTayka instructor, Dom, with the lessons. Over the course of seven weeks, four separate groups of children from nearby neighbourhoods are taking part, and lessons are run before or after school. They start by learning freestyle and doing some exercises to build their strength, and by the end they should even be able to swim butterfly. Most importantly, they learn to be confident and competent in the water.
“It’s incredible how fast they are learning. They go from not being able to hold themselves in the water, to being able to swim crawl by the end of the first week! They all love it. Because we’ve had to have a two-year break because of the pandemic, they are all so excited that the programme is back on,” said Emilie.
“There is one girl who is quite shy and very small for her age, and can barely stand up in the pool. She’s amazing, doing really well now, and all the other kids help her too. There is a really good community with the kids, as they all look out for each other.”
Running alongside are environmental lessons, which are also part of SwimTayka’s programme. The children are learning about the mangrove forests, which are predominant in Itacaré, and, of course, about water pollution. They will also do practical exercises, like beach clean-ups.
Emilie added: “The children are so grateful to have the opportunity to take part in SwimTayka, because they don’t have a lot. Learning to swim gives them so many opportunities, like surfing, or diving.”
We thought we’d also ask the children what they think of SwimTayka and the programme we run, and we were bowled over by what they said.
Emilie gathered the responses for us, and translated them from Portuguese.
“I’m very happy to have gotten this amazing opportunity. I love swimming and I can’t wait to swim in the ocean and go to the beach with my family, and practise all the swimming styles that I learned. I feel good after the swimming classes, swimming is good for my health and body.”
“I like the classes, they are very fun. I like always learning something new every class. I enjoy being together with cool people and making new friendships. I enjoy splashing in the water with my friends. It is fun learning different styles of swimming like butterfly and crawl, and my teachers are all really cool.”
“I think it’s important for everyone to be able to swim, because it is a lifesaving measure. It is very fun to enjoy swimming in rivers and the ocean. Learning to swim opens up other opportunities like being able to surf or stand-up-paddle.”
“We depend on our environment and nature, and the animals depend on our collaboration, for that matter, to survive. Looking after the environment is important so that all these ocean animals don’t go extinct; clean water is better for our body and health.”
“All people should know how to treat our environment, because nature is very fragile, and we need to protect it. Everyone should learn how to live environmentally friendly, because there are many people not treating nature well.”
If you like the sound of volunteering for SwimTayka, to help youngsters learn to swim and inspiring them to look after the environment, then why not get in touch. We still have spaces on programmes in 2023, in Jamaica, Bali and Mozambique.