After such a long time put on hold, due to the pandemic, our swim programmes are once again running and the first to start is in Peru.
Here, we have teamed up with Otra Cosa Network, an NGO set up 15 years ago, whose initial purpose was to help Peruvian children living in Huanchaco learn to speak English.
The project’s scope has since expanded to include literacy, youth projects, environmental awareness, sustainability and – of course – swimming.
Our swimming programme runs during the Peruvian summer holidays, in January and February, and for seven weeks dozens of children are introduced to swimming, often for the first time.
We caught up with Eduardo Maruri, from Spain, who now lives in Peru with his wife, and works as a magazine journalist.
He is also a qualified swim instructor, and he is delighted to get back to teaching with SwimTayka, after the enforced break.
“This is my second time helping with the programme, because we couldn’t run it in 2021 due to the pandemic. I wanted to help because I have the skills and the time, and in Spain I was a swimming teacher for around ten years.”
The programmes began again on January 10 and Eduardo says they are going really well.
“Because of the pandemic, we have had to bring in some new rules to help keep children safe, like wearing masks outside the swimming pool, and using alcohol rubs and social distancing, but we are managing.
“We’re teaching 60 children each week – but not at the same time! We have two lots of 30 children, who come twice a week, and we are combining swimming classes and environment classes. They have really improved in the four weeks they have been coming.
“We start off with a short gymnastic class to warm them up, then they shower and then they are straight into the pool. We have two levels we are teaching this year: beginners and advanced. In the advanced we have four or five children who are very skilled, but the rest are beginners.
“I teach them how to float, how to move and we make sure they have fun. The last five minutes of each class is just playing, which helps them feel comfortable in the water.”
At the start the children are quite nervous, and this summer in Peru it has been quite cool so there have been a few grumbles about getting into chilly water. But once they are in and start moving, the children quickly become used to it.
The age range is wide, from around six to 17, with a mix of boys and girls. Eduardo teaches alongside another SwimTayka instructor, and both are helped by local volunteers.
So what makes a good volunteer?
Eduardo says attitude is really important. “They have to be very, very patient because each child is different. Some are slower to learn, they may be fearful of the water, and they have to be able to trust the person who is helping them. The volunteers must be able to give the children confidence in the water.”
And does Eduardo enjoy teaching the children?
“I love it. I love to see them improving and it is something that is so important for them to learn. The best place to learn is in a swimming pool rather than in the sea. The sea here in Huanchaco is not a good place to swim, it’s not safe.
“I have been delighted to get back to swim teacher. It’s very practical and valuable for the children.”
At SwimTayka, we also have programmes running in other locations – Brazil, Jamaica, Indonesia and Mozambique – and are looking for volunteers to help. If you are interested in finding out more, please get in touch.