Ten youngsters from the Children's Aid Society (Melrose Home) took part and graduated from a 12-week swimming programme to teach basic water safety and survival knowledge. (Photo by SportCares)
Some eight months ago, staff from ActiveSG's Bedok Sports Centre, SportCares and YMCA of Singapore sat down together to explore the possibility of partnering selected VWOs and grassroot organisations to introduce water skills to underprivileged children.
Singapore is an island country, and everyone should be able to swim with competence. However we knew from our experience in our other sport programmes that many children do not know how to swim.
Determined to make a difference, YMCA, SportSG and SportCares crafted a 12-week swimming programme to teach basic water safety and survival knowledge. YMCA came in with coaches. Lifeguards and staff from Bedok Sports Centre served as volunteers and befrienders, experienced in water play. SportCares promoted SwimSafer, the national water safety programme, and funded the costs associated with the programme: the coach, swimming gear, transport, the meals and the graduation certificates.
Ten youngsters from the Children's Aid Society (Melrose Home) were invited to take part in the pilot programme. The eight boys and two girls took their first plunge in the pool at Bedok Sports Centre on 26 March. Over the next eight weeks, they were taught swimming by the YMCA coach with watchful support from the team of lifeguards at Bedok. For the next four weeks, the Bedok Sports Centre team supplemented their swimming lessons with team bonding sessions in and out of the pool.
Then, it was time for the big day: the swimming test.
"As kids, they are naturally playful," says Hans Cheong, Assistant Centre Manager at Bedok Sports Centre. "But when it came to their swimming test, everyone was serious and you could see the determination in their eyes. Everyone wanted to pass the test."
All 10 swimmers passed with flying colours.
However the children, aged 8-11 years old, learned more than the basics of swimming. In learning the sport, the children were required to focus, observe and listen carefully. The course of structured swimming sessions enabled the children to exercise their ability to focus which could yield long term benefits in personal development.
The house parents at Melrose Home have given the thumbs up to the programme. As people who work closely with the children, the house parents have nonoticed a change in the children who attended the programme. After the swimming lessons, the children were able to sleep better at night and interact with each other in a calmer manner. The older, more sedentary children seemed to have improved stamina.
On Thursday, the children gathered for their graduation party at Bedok. YMCA put up a short video of the time everyone spent together, giving us a peek of how far the children have come since that first lesson. The children were presented a goodie bag and an umbrella, but most of them were happiest to receive their certificates and badges, presented to them by Sophie Wong from SportCares.
ActiveSG’s Assistant Director, Dawn Seah, presented the certificates of appreciation to the Bedok volunteers. The two girls in the group cheered the loudest when it came to Charmaine Abigail, one of Bedok's female lifeguards and a clear favourite with the group. The pilot programme was a resounding success making graduation a bitter sweet affair as the volunteers bade the children goodbye.
Come October, Bedok Sports Centre will once again work with YMCA and SportCares to open its doors to welcome the next batch of swimming beneficiaries from Care Corner Tampines.
This is SportCares. Seeding hope and changing lives through sport.