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Swimming in Peru: seven weeks of lessons are underway

We’re helping more children than even to learn to swim in Peru, thanks to our partnership with NGO on the ground Otra Cosa Network.

And we’re thrilled that soon among the volunteers could be some of the children who learnt to swim on a SwimTayka programme.

We caught up recently with Juany, who founded OCN in the coastal town of Huanchaco, and some of the team and volunteers who are running this year’s programme. 

“Otra Cosa and SwimTayka were the pioneers and are still the only ones in Huanchaco running free swimming classes, using the only accessible pool in the area,” said Juany. “When we first started, people weren’t sure what we were about but we have won the trust of the parents and they are very happy to send their children to us.” 

New to OCN is Ximena, from Peru, who joined last year to help run the SwimTayka programme, alongside long-standing co-ordinator Paul. She had just completed her Masters in linguistics in The Netherlands, and was looking to work with an NGO back in her home country. The SwimTayka programme fitted the bill.

“The kids love the lessons, and they are always willing to come,” said Ximena. “We split their sessions into swim lessons and environmental awareness lessons, and you can tell they all want to be in the pool! We want to teach them to swim but also make it fun.”

Paul has working for OCN and SwimTayka for five years. He’s delighted that some of the children have been with the programme since it started, while new ones are coming along. In fact, more want to join in than can be accommodated. In total 60 children are enrolled, and the programme runs for seven weeks.

Paul says he has seen great progress in the children, and hopes next year to sign up volunteer helpers from among those who’ve learnt to swim through SwimTayka.

OCN and SwimTayka rely in the help of volunteers, and this year we have Tom, from London, who is on board for the entire seven weeks, as part of his student gap year.

“I wanted to travel during my gap year, and visit South America, so this was a great opportunity. I am a lifeguard back home, and here I have been helping the beginners, who can’t swim at all. The children are really enjoying it. Some climb up the ladder and jump straight back in, some are a bit more reluctant to start with, but they are soon comfortable in the water and learning to kick properly.”

The language hasn’t been a barrier for Tom, who doesn’t speak Spanish. He said: “When I came here, I didn’t know a thing but this is a great way to learn a language, although lots of the vocabulary I now know is swimming based.”

Eduardo, a magazine journalist from Spain who lives in Peru, is back working as a swim teacher for a third year. “I’m enjoying being back. The biggest group – the beginners – are with Tom, one group is with our new swimming teacher Lucia and I take the other group.”

The children’s families are very appreciative of the programme. Eduardo said: “They are very happy with us. They stay to watch and we have a very good relationship with them.”

Lucia joined SwimTayka as a volunteer last year, and is now working for OCN, teaching the advanced class. She said: “They are doing well and perfecting their techniques.”

Juany is proud of how far the programme has come and of the partnership between OCN and SwimTayka, which works with some of the most disadvantaged children in Peru. She said: “It is also important have women teachers, who are role models. Surfing – which is such a big activity here – is very male dominated, so in this way we can encourage girls to come along and learn to swim too.”If you like the idea of volunteering in Peru please get in touch for more information or to sign up.