BaySwim manager Matthew Strange says pre-school children from families who cannot afford swimming lessons stand to benefit from the initiative, and he is urging locals to show support and give these children an equal chance to learn essential skills. The children involved will be selected with assistance from the local Salvation Army support services.
The sponsored swimming is set to start at the first quarter of 2017. It is timely, Matthew believes, given the increase in people living below the poverty line. As a consequence, many children are missing out on vital extracurricular skills like learning to swim.
Each sponsored child will be funded for an entire year of lessons to ensure their basic skills are developed. This will cover 40 weeks of swimming development and six weeks of water skills. It will also include free aquatic access for the child – and a supervising parent – to Baywave, Greerton, Otumoetai and Memorial pools for the year, so they can practise. The children - who will not be identified as sponsored attendees - will be in the mainstream classes held at Baywave, Greerton and Otumoetai pools.
BaySwim’s initiative is supported by the Salvation Army and endorsed by Swimming New Zealand.
It is well recognised that learning to swim comes with mental, physical, social, cognitive and safety benefits. According to Water Safety NZ research, children aged between one and four years-of-age are 88 per cent less likely to drown if they have had formal swimming lessons.
The children selected by Salvation Army for the BaySwim initiative will be in the pre-school age group (three and four years of age) as this is a key development period, Matthew says. It follows on from the free Aquababe classes Bayswim offers in Quarter 3 each year and gets them ready for school.
He says those supporting the sponsored swimming programme would be doing more than ensuring children in our water-side city can learn to swim. They would be giving them a lifelong skill and equal chance to develop along with their peers.
“They will also be addressing potential child obesity and social inclusion issues, and helping to ensure more children participate in aquatic activities once they reach school. It can also lead onto future participation in swimming clubs, water polo, surf lifesaving – basically helping set up a healthy and active lifestyle for these children,” Matthew says.
Money donated by businesses for this initiative will go into one fund to be distributed to pay for lessons for as many children as possible. There is no set donation amount.