Here, There and Everywhere

Swimming In Rwanda

From ROP Stories

ROP boys learn to swim!
2 September 2012 by Jenny Clover

This summer something amazing happened at the ROP – the boys learned to swim! A Canadian NGO called Koga International contacted us back at the
beginning of the year, asking if they could fly some qualified
swimming coaches over to Rwanda, pay for the hire of a swimming pool
and all transport costs and teach all of our 100 children how to swim.
Of course, we jumped at the chance. Like most kids, our boys have a
long six-week holiday every summer and, like most kids, they can get
bored and restless. But more than that, it’s rare for our boys to get
an opportunity to learn a valuable new skill, taught by experts, and
to get out of the ROP centre and spend time together in a new
environment. So two weeks of swimming classes in a local leisure
centre which also boasts a trampoline, swings, slides, table football,
ping-pong and pool, was always going to be a winning idea.

Koga international had also come up with the idea of teaching some of
the ROP staff to swim in the few weeks before the kids’ classes began.
The idea is that now that four ROP staff members have begun to learn
how to teach swimming, they can continue the ROP’s swimming programme
in the following years.

So two days before the classes were due to start, we gathered the boys
and told them they would soon be embarking on a watery adventure. The
reaction was incredible – cheering, clapping, jumping, squealing. I
don’t know if we’ve ever had such a joyous reaction to an announcement
before. They couldn’t believe the staff had secretly been having
lessons in preparation for it, and couldn’t wait to start the classes
on Monday.

Despite the excitement, some of the boys were terrified at the idea of
getting in the water. Most of them had never swum before and felt very
uncomfortable with the idea of swimming – particularly with floating
and going anywhere near the deep end. But the expert swimming coaches
helped them get over these issues amazingly quickly and within a few
days, all boys were happily putting their faces in the water and
floating unaided. They picked up the front crawl stroke very fast,
with young and older boys alike, powering along the width of the pool,
faces in water, completely unaided. Many, although not all, of the
boys, were also happy swimming around in the deep end by the end of
the two weeks, and most had learnt how to do really good dives (and
dive bombs).

As coordinators who have watched these boys grow and flourish over the
last three years, we felt incredibly proud to watch them launch
themselves at the task of learning to swim with such enthusiasm, good
humour and bravery. We’ve always known what fantastic boys we have at
the ROP, but watching them in a new environment with new people,
tackling a scary and difficult task with such grace and good behaviour
just reiterated what special boys they are. There was no crying, no
fighting, no bad behaviour, just lots of happy boys grateful for the
chance at a new opportunity and giving their all. This was especially
true of the first group in the morning who had to get in the very cold
water and fight through the shivers to swim before the sun had had a
chance to warm the water up.

See many more photos of swimming lessons at ROP Stories.
Rwandan Orphans Project Center for Street Children

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