Learn to swim program for young refugees

Recent news reports of tragic drownings in local lakes and rivers has highlighted the need to ensure swimming competency, particularly within the local refugee community.

Working with Gateway Health, RCAN now supports a program through Vicswim to teach water skills. Club member Mary Widdicombe is driving the program along with Bhakti Dhamala from Gateway Health.

The first group of refugee children began swimming lessons at Wodonga Sports and Leisure Centre in January this year.

“The children and their mothers are highly motivated and fully committed to attending the lessons,” Mary said. “We’re looking at taking a more holistic approach with the program – things like a ‘pre-swim’ program so the kids and their mothers can just get used to being in the water. We obviously need to take into consideration the cultural aspects surrounding these groups.”

In February, RCAN also started supporting another learn to swim program for older refugee children and adults with Swim Tech in Albury.

Parents and children alike need to learn about water safety. The importance of always watching, having lifesaving equipment on hand, and understanding the dangers in pools, rivers and lakes is essential. The cost of pool entry, swim lessons and transport are often barriers for the refugee community when it comes to learning about water safety and how to swim.

“We’re confident that we will continue to work with these programs, as safety and confidence in the water for new arrivals not familiar with our rivers and lakes is essential for their safety and well-being,” Mary said.