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