Pilot program teaches immigrant families how to swim
Published Friday, July 19, 2019 7:11PM EDT
For many new families arriving in Canada, learning to swim is not high on their list of priorities, so a new program promises to help their kids learn this life saving skill.
"We know from the research that we’ve done that new Canadians are four times more likely to drown yet they -- almost 80 per cent of them -- say they want to go swimming every year," Barbara Byers, Public Education Director with the Lifesaving Society, said.
That's why the society, in partnership with the City of Toronto, chose the Thorncliffe Park neighborhood for the launch of a pilot project to bring a basic swimming program called "Swim to Survive" to youngsters, especially from immigrant families.
Mother Sandra Morris admits that despite growing up in sunny Jamaica, she never learned to swim.
"My parents wouldn’t allow me to go in the water. They were afraid I would drown so that’s why I cannot swim," she said.
But this summer, she's making sure her nine-year old son Akil does.
"That’s why I have him here, because I want him to be a good swimmer," she says.
Akil, meanwhile, is loving the cold water of Leaside Pool.
"It's fun," he says. "I just like getting wet!"
Byers says they first approached parents in English language classes to get them on board with the idea that knowing how to swim is important.
"We impressed on them the importance that, while they may not be a swimmer, how important it was for their kids to learn to swim so that they can have fun with their friends when they’re older and also be safe."
And Mayor John Tory, who admits he didn't learn to swim until he was seven, also stressed the importance of knowing how to survive in the water.
"Basic swimming is as fundamental a skill as you can acquire -- for safety reasons and also so you are able to be a part of what other kids do."
Mayor John Tory speaks about the important of learning how to swim.
Every year, Tory pointed out, we hear stories of drownings. "These are preventable deaths."
As part of the pilot project at Leaside Pool, the city has allowed Swim to Survive instructors to come in one hour early each day to teach children how to swim.
Next week will be a drop-in session and the classes run through the end of August. The Lifesaving Society estimates 400 children will have learned basic swimming skills by the end of the summer.
Afterward that, an evaluation will be done and the hope is that they can expand the Swim to Survive program to more neighborhood pools next year