Swim England

A nation swimming

Group who believed swimming was for ‘the boys’ graduate from accessible lessons

A group of African women who believed swimming was something ‘the boys do’ have ‘graduated’ from affordable and accessible lessons.

Hampshire-based charitable organisation The United Voices of African Associations (TUVAA) arranged for the group to learn how to swim at Active Nation’s Bitterne Leisure Centre in Southampton.

They were keen to learn after taking their children to lessons and realising swimming for everyone and all ages – and would be a great way to stay fit and enjoy an activity as a family.

The one-hour sessions held over 12 weeks have proved to be so popular that another two classes are starting this month and there is a waiting list for people keen to sign up.

Fourteen of the group were presented with Swim England’s Water Skills 1 award, one earned their 10m badge and five their 25m badge – and they celebrated their graduation by going down the pool’s flume.

Melinda Odum, from TUVAA, said: “We wanted to deliver accessible and affordable swimming lessons to black women in the Southampton community.  

“Knowing that so many black adults and children do not swim on a regular basis, we felt it was important to promote these lessons in this life skill and for fitness purposes. 

Improved in water confidence

“The lessons cater to women of different abilities and has impacted more than 30 women so far. 

“It has been amazing to see how the women have improved in water confidence, progressing into doing front crawl and back stroke and pool lengths.”

Karen Tillyer, health and wellbeing manager at Active Nation, said: “We were approached by TUVAA as they had a group of ladies who wanted to learn to swim.

“These ladies grew up with the idea that swimming was ‘what the boys do’. However on moving to this country and sending their children to swimming lessons, they realised this was something they could take part in and turn into a family activity.”

Ali Noyce, Swim England health and wellbeing manager, said: “Congratulations to everyone who has taken part in these sessions arranged by TUVAA.

“While swimming is a life skill which is so important to learn, being active in the water also offers long-term physical and mental health benefits.

“We’re thrilled that so many have taken advantage of these sessions and pleased to hear so many more are wanting to get involved and learn how to swim.”