The Winkler Aquatic Centre handed out 50 swimming badges Thursday to a group of young swimmers and a handful of adults.
Lani Enns, Winkler Aquatic Centre Programmer says thanks to a $2,500 grant from the Manitoba Coalition for Safer Waters, she was able to partner with Regional Connections to offer a program for kids new to Canada to learn how to be safe around water, and learn basic swimming skills. Although it was aimed toward kids, the program was open to adults as well.
"The whole idea about it was working with Regional Connections, and trying to help the kids understand how to be safe around the water," said Enns. "As we know in Manitoba, there's water everywhere, and it's not always supervised. We're lucky enough here at the pool to have a team of amazing lifeguards to help at all times. But, if you go to the beach, Plum Coulee, Morden, maybe other beaches and other facilities they don't actually have staff, and so it's incredibly important to start with understanding and knowledge of how to be safe around the water as young as we can, so we thought this was a really important program, and we're incredibly excited of how it turned out."
In years past the aquatic centre has done a water safety evening with Regional Connections. Enns said those events were typically geared more towards the adults, teaching them about water safety, and this program is a great way to get started with the kids.
Aubrey Krahn is a Settlement Worker in Schools (SWIS) worker at Regional Connections. She said with the recent surge of newcomers to the area through immigration, and other people displaced from their home countries, they know there is a high need for this. "We hear a lot of 'mom and dad can't swim' or maybe they're scared of water because they were never introduced to it back in their country, so they didn't want the same thing for their kids...They've learned about safety during this program, they've learned their basic swimming and floating, and things like that. We had a dad join as well who's never really been in water...so it's been really good."
Within 48 hours of opening registration, Krahn said all 50 spots for the swimming lessons were filled, with a waiting list. "Our hope is to continue to do this every year. Maybe next year we might be able to get a grant for two different sessions where we could look at maybe having adults separate from the kids, and also different levels if there's a need for that as well."
10-year-old Ifeoluwa Josephson moved to Canada with her family from Nigeria. She says she took a few lessons a long time ago, so she wasn't a very strong swimmer. Josephson says she is very happy she was given this opportunity.
"We learned how to float, how to swim, we also learned how to go underwater...I feel happy and confident to go into the water now that I don't have to stand up and pretend that I'm swimming."
"We're just incredibly grateful for this grant and this program and how well it's gone," added Enns. "We're grateful for the relationship with Regional Connections and all of the parents, kids and participants that signed up. It wouldn't be possible without them either."