Group bringing swimming lessons to rural children

Water Safety. . . Excited to be teaching children from rural areas how to swim in term four are (from left) JC Swimmers Limited volunteer Janet Pollard, swimming instructor Natalia Campbell and group founder Joanne Cheesbrough. PHOTO: VALU MAKA

Edendale’s Joanne Cheesbrough is making use of smaller community pools to teach young rural swimmers.

She started her JC Swimmers Ltd group at the Wyndham Community Pool late last year.

This year the Edendale Community Pool will be on board for swimming classes, which begin early next week.

She was also in negotiation with the Woodlands and Gorge Rd pools, Ms Cheesbrough said.

She had been “blown away” by the response she had received from the communities.

“We’ve just enrolled our 100th student, Jade, who is 5 years old, and so we put together a swim pack as a gift.”

She acknowledged the support of the Wyndham and Edendale community pool committees.

“Without them we wouldn’t be where we are now.”

Most of her registered students were from rural areas.

“About 90% are from farming families and they are very appreciative that they have their community pools being utilised.”

She first got the idea to start her group after she realised rural families would often have to travel for swimming lessons.

“I know a lot of families would have to drive to Gore or Invercargill if they wanted swimming lessons.

“So there is a demand for classes in rural communities.”

It was her dream to get an instructor in every community pool, so she was always on the lookout for new ones.

“That’s our big dream .. I know community pools are not utilised to the full extent they should be.”

The drowning statistics were a reason it was important for New Zealanders to learn how to swim, Ms Cheesbrough said.

“Swimming is a part of Kiwi culture – you know we have rivers and lakes and it is something that is a consequential Kiwi thing to do by the beach or by the river.

“It only takes a second for something to go wrong.”

Parents were grateful for the lessons, as they gave their children knowledge of what to do in those hazardous situations.

“We don’t look at is as a sport – we look at it like it is a life skill and a high priority on the list.”

Swimming instructors Natalia Campbell and Alana Burgess and volunteer Janet Pollard were on the staff.

“It’s exciting to see people out there wanting to have their children learn how to swim. What I love is the excitement of seeing the children progress,” Ms Pollard said.

Swimming was an important life skill, Ms Campbell said.

“I think it is a life skill every child needs to know.

“I was never taught how to swim when I was younger, but learning when I was older was so important to me.”