Swim lessons’ mil­lionth splash

Eastern Courier - - YOUR LOCAL NEWS - IMO­GEN NEALE

A com­mu­nity swim­ming pro­gramme with hum­ble be­gin­nings has marked a ma­jor milestone.

Last Thurs­day John Walker’s Find Your Field of Dreams Foun­da­tion’s Com­mu­nity Swim pro­gramme de­liv­ered its one mil­lionth swim les­son. It started as pi­lot at Wakaaranga School in Farm Cove and Yen­darra School in Otara in 2008.

Fit­tingly, it was nine-year-old Yen­darra School stu­dent Kiyana Kani-Ahokava who was se­lected by bal­lot to be the one mil­lionth swim stu­dent. Or­gan­is­ers of the cel­e­bra­tory event held at Vec­tor Wero White­wa­ter Park on Novem­ber 9 say she had no idea and was ‘‘de­lighted’’.

In the al­most 10 years since its in­cep­tion, the foun­da­tion’s flag­ship pro­gramme has grown to now give more than 20,000 stu­dents a year from more than 90 schools in East and South Auck­land eight free swim lessons.

To do this it has raised more than $5.5 mil­lion to cover the cost of trans­port, pool ac­cess and in­struc­tion.

Wakaaranga School prin­ci­pal Brent Jenkin says it’s an ‘‘amaz­ing pro­gramme’’ that en­ables chil­dren to start build­ing a pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ship with wa­ter.

‘‘Half of them are ter­ri­fied of wa­ter [but] we’ve got five beaches within 10 min­utes of where we are,’’ he says.

‘‘You see the pro­gres­sion. You see begin­ners who can swim enough to get to the next level, but you also see the kids who have barely been able to move in the wa­ter go up a level.’’

The pro­gramme ‘‘has ex­ceeded all ex­pec­ta­tions’’, ac­cord­ing to founder Sir John Walker.

‘‘I hope one day some of our Com­mu­nity Swim young­sters go on to achieve in­ter­na­tional suc­cess, but in the mean­time we are help­ing thou­sands of chil­dren gain greater con­fi­dence in the wa­ter. Swim clubs are re­port­ing in­creased mem­ber­ship and schools tell us there are less ab­sences on the days stu­dents are in­volved in the pro­gramme.’’

Foun­da­tion gen­eral man­ager Rick Pickard says ‘‘we know Com­mu­nity Swim is mak­ing a dif­fer­ence across Auck­land’s area of great­est need where Paci­fika, Maori and Asian chil­dren ac­count for more than 30 per cent of all na­tional pre­ventable drown­ing deaths.’’

A fast mov­ing wa­ter safety pro­gramme, safer boat­ing ed­u­ca­tion and a hol­i­day swim pro­gramme have also been in­tro­duced.

SUP­PLIED

Kiyana Kani-Ahokava with Olympians (left to right) Danyon Loader, Sir John Walker and Ian Fer­gu­son.

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