A little while ago, we were lucky enough to get involved with charity organisation, Likkle Swimmers, and also donated them a stock of float jackets and sunsuits. Likkle Swimmers is based on Treasure Beach in Jamaica, and teaches free swimming lessons to children aged 3-16 years (now including adults!). The charity was set up by Charlotte, a young childcare enthusiast from Kent. This impoverished coastal community had no access to a public pool or swimming lessons until recently, and this has led to multiple incidents of drowning. Our very own Head of Retail, Jennie (and Water Babies teacher) was lucky enough to be on a family holiday in Jamaica recently, so she popped down to the south coast to see what the charity had been up to.
"As we drove down the coast, the roads got bumpier and the holiday resorts fewer and far between. After considerable head shaking and frowning from the taxi driver, we arrived at the end of a narrow lane to the community area. This resource is an area of bare ground, shaded with trees where they a scattering of buildings used for learning activities, a kitchen, slightly scary changing rooms and lots of signs checking for Aids status. This is definitely an area of Jamaica with very little in the way of economy, but a fantastic attitude to make the best of things.
Past the buildings and a large security guard is the fenced off pool area where I met Pete the local taxi driver, who collects all the kids in the area and takes them for a free ride to their lesson along with Freddie and Javin; two of the Likkle Swimmers instructors. When I arrived, a young adult class was already underway and I was instantly welcomed and urged to jump in the pool. It was over 35 degrees on poolside with no shade, so I didn’t need asking twice!
The lessons were structured, and students were given loads of encouragement with each skill along with competitions and races. At the end of the class, there is free time where students can play in the pool to gain confidence and enjoy the water rather than it just being a learning exercise. They certainly didn’t hold back, and being a short blond English woman also didn’t protect me from being forcibly dunked (dragged) underwater, with loud shouts of laughter by some of the teenagers. It’s a good thing I can swim.
The next class was 4-5-year-olds who were working on strokes, floating and jumping in (so more in my comfort zone). With four Jamaican teachers and myself teaching seven children, the ratio of help was great. And with the pool being pretty deep, the teachers made use of shark/swim fins to give the children confidence and help them concentrate on their swim position, arms and legs. There was a real mix of ability and confidence, so having four teachers to support those who were a little unsure was a huge benefit. By the end of the class even the most nervous kids were jumping in with great enthusiasm.
Visiting Likkle Swimmers was really inspiring, and for Charlotte to have achieved so much in a short space of time is truly incredible. I’m proud that we can help in a small way to give the children of treasure beach the opportunity to learn to swim and be part of something so special."