Swimming to safety

Working together, Aqua Dolphin swimming coach Shrone Austin, Bergvliet Primary governing body member Ralph Freese and AquAzzura Foundation CEO Mina Manoussakis.

Bergvliet Primary School has a vision that every pupil will be able to swim by the end of the year and for those pupils who do well, to be included in the schools swimming squad.

This dream began two years ago, with a partnership between AquAzzura Foundation, Bergvliet Primary and its school governing body.

Mina Manoussakis, CEO of the non-profit, non-governmental foundation says they approached the school two years ago and after they embraced the idea, the foundation took over the swimming pool.

“We’re offering a water safe programme of learning to swim as a life skill, as well as offering training for a school aquatic squad, at no charge,” says Ms Manoussakis.

“Six months ago the swimming pool was a swamp,” says Bergvliet school governing body member Ralph Freese. “The water was knee high and covered in algae.”

AquAzzurra took over, hauled mounds of algae away, fixed the cracks, installed heat pumps and have applied to the City for permission to enclose the pool.

Ms Manoussakis, an ex-swimmer who lives in Johannesburg, says she founded AquAzzurra after identifying the need for children in the Western Cape to learn to swim.

She says many children swim in summer but are not able to continue in winter because swimming pools are open to the elements and the water is cold. Hence the need to enclose the pool.

Ms Manoussakis says the programme also has spin-offs for other schools in the area as they plan to bring in pupils from Westcott Primary and Glenbridge special needs school, or take portable pools to them.

Mr Freese is excited about the programme. “It takes discipline to train. It has been proven that this discipline leads to pupils doing better in school and later in life in their jobs,” he says.

According to a report, titled “Keeping our heads above water: A systematic review of fatal drowning in South Africa”, which was published in the SA Medical Journal earlier this month, there had been an average of 1 541 fatal drownings a year between 2011 and 2015.

“The scary part is that not all the drownings occurred at the sea. Half of them happened in and around homes.

“Unfortunately, those figures are increasing because not all South African families have access to teach their children to swim or know the importance of teaching their kids to swim and there is a lack of financial support and resources for swimming,” says Ms Manoussakis.

Swimming coach Shrone Austin is an Olympic medallist from the Seychelles and now coaches children under the Aqua Dolphin programme.

The programme, she says, encompasses training, nutrition, physiotherapy and more. She is excited that they have already identified pupils with potential at Bergvliet and other schools.

AquAzzurra can be reached at mina@aquadolphins.co.za or 082 577 8902.