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Meet and greet sessions help break down barriers which stop people swimming

Communities in Haringey have benefitted from local meet and greet sessions as part of the second strand of the London Legacy Project.

The project, aimed to help break down the barriers that stop people swimming, is using the meet and greet events as the first step in helping to reduce social isolation, get people more active and improve mental health.

The events were run in partnership with Fusion Lifestyle, Haringey Council and two local community clubs in the area – Haringey Aquatics and Aqua Vision.

Four successful meet and greet events have now been run in London. The four community groups who benefitted were Samafal, which is an Asian women’s network, the Engine Room, which support local families, Phoenix Community Care, which supports refugees in and around Haringey, and HR Sports Academy, which offers sports coaching for children and young people.

Stephanie Gadd, Swim England programme officer – growth, who is leading on the London Legacy Project, said: “It has been fantastic to meet with these local community groups face-to-face and listen to them talk about the barriers they face when it comes to swimming.”

“These events are a really important step in creating a dialogue with these groups to help us understand each groups specific needs.

“It was also a great opportunity to talk them about the value of swimming. I’m looking forward to working with the clubs, Fusion Lifestyle and Haringey Council to roll out the rest of the project in the coming months.”

Creating opportunities

A total of 150 people have now signed up to take part in the London Legacy Project, which is committed to getting them more involved in swimming and aquatics both now and in the future.

Lesley Walker of Haringey Aquatics said: “As a club with a passion for swimming, diving and water polo, Haringey Aquatics aims to make our sport as accessible and inclusive as possible.

“But many young people and adults locally have not had the opportunity to learn how to swim, or to take their swimming further so it’s been great to get away from the pool side to meet people in their own communities.

“We can now work with Swim England and our partners to open up some great opportunities for people who have been missing out on swimming and all its many benefits.”

Eid Aljazairli, a Syrian refugee who came to the UK and took up swimming, was the guest speaker at the Phoenix Community Care event and talked to a group of refugee boys about his journey from Syria to the UK and how he got into swimming.

Youngsters at the event were inspired by Eid, saying: “I had never really thought about going swimming but after listening this evening, I really want to now. I cannot swim very well, but want to learn more.”

Another said: “Eid was an inspiration. I really look up to what he has achieved and I would also really like to start swimming.”

The next step

The next stage of the project will be to roll out the water based elements of the programme to get more people active and in the water.

A series of free swimming assessments started this week and there will also be free taster sessions for water polo, artistic swimming and diving over the summer, as well as four learn to swim programmes later in the autumn.

There will also be a bursary scheme for swim teaching and lifeguard courses, as well as a ‘get into volunteering’ event on 9 July.

Gareth Heard of Fusion Lifestyle said: “Reaching out to local community groups means we can make contact with those people we want to encourage to our pools.

“Fusion has been working for many years alongside the local council and Sport England to get as many people swimming as possible, which is why we wanted to get involved in the Swim England London Legacy Project.

“Covid had a big impact on the amount of people using our pools, so it is a way to get people back into the water, from a whole range of backgrounds.”

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