The Swim for Refugees Project first came about after hearing from some lovely friends of ours about their experiences living in Perth as new members of the community. Loving to fish, but doing so in fear of a wave washing them into the open water; spending their newfound freedom lounging on the sand at Cottesloe Beach, but not having the skills to do more than splash in the shallow waters.
Many people who come to WA seeking shelter and refuge come from places where they’ve never had the opportunity to learn to swim. We couldn’t think of a better way to help welcome them to Perth, get involved with Western Australian culture and our community, and be able to join in our lifestyle safely, and without fear.
On September 17th 2016, the first Swim for Refugees Program was run. Created by UWA Students For Refugees, in partnership with the School of Sport Science, UniSwim, and Guild Volunteering, the programme provided free swimming lessons for refugees ranging from children to adults. The first day, we had fifteen volunteers, but only seven people learning to swim. By the end of the first run of the program, we had over 30 students coming every week to learn to swim.
The pilot programme was viewed by former refugees from our community as a success! The university students who volunteered successfully engaged people from a range of backgrounds, each group challenging stereotypes and assumptions and helping those who have arrived adjust to life in new homeland. Furthermore, those who took part acquired an invaluable skill, with students making vast progress during the programme. One of our biggest achievements was the inclusion of so many women, who often find themselves isolated in the resettlement process in a new country. We are passionate about empowering women to thrive here.
After the accomplishments achieved in 2016, we envision Swim for Refugees to be a program where volunteers from all backgrounds, diversities and communities can team up and dedicate a couple of hours a week of their time to aid in teaching the Refugee community basic swimming skills, as well as providing university students and new asylum seekers and refugees the chance to forge friendships with different communities.
Having learned much from the pilot program, we’re bringing back the program in 2017 with a new structure, new aspects to the program such as a creche, and bringing more volunteers on board.
We can’t wait to grow with you!
– Swim for Refugees Founder and Director, Sophie Stewart.