Swim and Survive Fund
In order to prevent drowning, every Australian child must have basic swimming, water safety skills and knowledge of how to be safe when they are in, on, or around the water.
The reality is that in many communities, a swimming and water safety education is simply not accessible. Alarmingly, thousands of Australian children leave primary school every year without the ability to swim 50 metres or stay afloat for two minutes – even if their life depended on it.
The Swim and Survive Fund provides swimming and water safety courses for children experiencing social or economic disadvantage. These are often children who have had limited or no exposure to the water and vital water safety education.
Royal Life Saving utilises donations from individuals, community organisations, corporate supporters and Partner facilities to increases access to safe aquatic facilities, qualified instructors and to provide structured swimming and water safety education programs.
“The Swim and Survive Fund not only helps children to have fun while being active and making new friends, but participating in this program helps to build their confidence in the water, while learning vital swimming and water safety skills that may one day save their life” said Justin Scarr, Chief Executive Officer, Royal Life Saving Society – Australia
Case Study – Matilda
One day during a hospital visit, Mary recognised a former work colleague – and came face-to-face with the importance of swimming and water safety education. Her colleague’s son had been found face down in a neighbours’ swimming pool. Attempts to resuscitate him were unsuccessful and the boy drowned at just three years of age.
“Everyone was inconsolable,” Mary said. “It was horrific to witness. You hear about it and read about it, but to be that close and see all that grief had a huge impact on me.” At the time Mary did not feel confident that her own daughter Matilda had the skills to swim to the side of a swimming pool if she accidently fell in. “I just knew that from that night on learning to swim needed to be a major priority,” she said.
Matilda has Down Syndrome and was given the opportunity to learn swimming and water safety skills through the Swim and Survive Fund. “It seemed perfect and we were very happy to accept,” Mary said.
Matilda started with weekly lessons at a Royal Life Saving partner facility in July 2011. She was a little unsure about getting in the water at first, but flourished as she adapted to her new routine and became more familiar with her environment.
The achievements soon started coming. “Floating was a huge achievement because we had been trying to teach her to float for years but she didn’t have the confidence to let go. It was such a big milestone when she learnt to float.”
Matilda then progressed from basic over arm freestyle to freestyle with bilateral breathing – again, another milestone. “Matilda always struggled with her breathing but it has really improved,” Mary said.
But the Swim and Survive Fund has given Matilda much more than the ability to swim. “One of the best things about Matilda and her swimming lessons is that she can do everything that all the other kids can do, which is really important for her self-esteem and confidence,” Mary said.
Matilda’s muscle strength has also developed, better enabling her to participate in new activities and play with her friends. “One of the things that we will work on this summer is to translate her swimming skills from the pool to the beach. With Down Syndrome, there is low muscle tone so she gets tumbled quite a lot in the waves”.
And there have been other benefits. “She normally has preventative treatment for her asthma during winter, but her asthma is improving and she actually hasn’t needed any this year,” Mary said.
Mary recently enrolled Matilda in her first camp where she will participate in aquatic activities unaided. “I am normally very nervous about anyone else looking after her in the water. But on the enrolment form I was able to write that Matilda could swim without floaties. I am so proud of her!”
Thanks to the Swim and Survive Fund, Matilda now has swimming and water safety skills. They are skills she will have forever and skills that may one day save her life.