Making a Splash for Southland Families

By PSS | Posted: Saturday March 24, 2018

An initiative offering free swimming lessons for children aged under 3 has proven to have huge benefits for both the children and parents involved.

The lessons were part of a project called Haumaru Kaha Wai Tamariki – Safe Strong Water Babies; a programme made possible thanks to the passion and idea of Family/Whanau Worker Nerida Hope-Johnstone, funding from the Health Promotion Agency and the support of Splash Palace.

Through the initiative, close to 60 Southland families each got access to five swimming lessons for their child at Splash Palace and it was a programme that showed huge benefits for all involved.

“The feedback has just been so positive,” Nerida said.
“Parents have talked about benefits of their children getting to experience the joy of water, of getting that special attachment and bonding time with their children and of the confidence both they and their children have gained. The benefits really have stemmed much wider than just what happened in the water, and that has been so pleasing.”

The free lessons were offered to families involved with Family Works and Awarua Social Services.

Nerida said she came up with the idea because she was passionate about children getting the opportunity to experience swimming lessons and she had worked closely with the team at Splash Palace who co-ordinated the lessons.

She acknowledged that there were a number of potential barriers to families accessing swimming lessons for their young children such as cost, transport, and confidence issues.

With the programme eliminating as many barriers as possible, a number of parents were motivated to enrol their children who may not have otherwise had an opportunity to do so.

“There were stories about children who would be crying at the start of the lessons, not wanting to get in the pool, but as the lessons went on they just grew in confidence and ended up absolutely loving it.”
“There were similar stories about mums who were so anxious and not confident about getting in the water themselves, but by the end of the lessons they were so carefree and found themselves really enjoying it, and particularly enjoying that bonding time with their child.”
“Some families have opted to carry on with other lessons.”

Nerida said Family Works would love to offer the initiative again, however any future lessons would be dependent on sourcing appropriate funding.

“We are very grateful to the Health Promotion Agency for supporting this initiative. It has really made a positive difference for a large number of Southland families.”