Thirteen local children from families who arrived in Australia as refugees or supported migrants have begun a week-long series of learn to swim classes in Lismore.
The children’s families come from various African countries, including Sierre Leone, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and have now established themselves in the local area.
The Kick Start classes are conducted by qualified swimming instructors at Goonellabah Sports & Aquatic Centre. They are arranged by North Coast Settlement Service, a special work of St Vincent de Paul Society NSW that assists migrants and refugees to become self-reliant and to participate in the local community.
The classes are sponsored by the North Coast Community Foundation https://nrcf.org.au/ and are a collaboration between the Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS), the Department of Social Services, and Anglicare, which is assisting with transport.
“With the North Coast’s outdoor lifestyle and the many opportunities to swim at beaches, pools and other water bodies, we can’t over emphasise the importance of water safety, especially for young children,” said North Coast Settlement Service outreach worker Penny May.
“Around the state this summer we’ve seen too many people get into trouble in the water, and a significant number have come from migrant backgrounds. Helping people develop the skills and confidence to swim safely is of paramount importance.”
Ms May added, “The uptake from these local families has been fantastic. So is the funding support from the North Coast Community Foundation and the swim coaches at the Centre. The lessons the kids learn this week will benefit them for the rest of their lives, and may actually help save their life one day.
“With the steadily growing migrant and former refugee population in the local area, the swimming program plays an important role in the community.”