Water is everywhere in Vanuatu. Children grow up by oceans, rivers, blue holes, and waterfalls and willingly play in the water without fear, but the majority do not know how to swim, neither for safety nor for more formal sport.
Swimming is available to all: age, sex, education, wealth or handicap is no barrier to entry. Teams do not limit the number of participants. A swim team/squad can accommodate large numbers of participants (and is actually at an advantage by having a larger team and a larger pool of athletes to pull from).
Flying Fish Swimming partnered with Wan Smol Bag, a local grassroots NGO, to create a program aimed at providing swim lessons for ni-Vanuatu. The swim program is part of their Youth and Sports Program which engages children and youth from all across the capital city of Port Vila and expands out to rural villages.
The program currently has over 60 students enrolled in the program, and this number is quickly growing each week. Swimmers vary from ages of 4 to 19 years of age. While most of these swimmers are youth in Wan Smolbag, the program also reaches children who need an extracurricular activity after school.
The swim program aims to provide affordable quality swim safety education to ni-Vanuatu children and youth of any gender, social background and physical ability. Youth who are registered with Wan Smolbag have free access to the swim program twice a week, while students who are in school can access the after school swim program for a nominal fee. These fees go towards paying teachers, holding competitions and carnivals, purchasing equipment and renting swim venues.
By engaging children in the sport of swimming, the risk of chronic illnesses in children and youth are greatly reduced. While anaerobic sports such as football that require running and sprinting are great ways to improve a child’s fitness and coordination, swimming is one of the best aerobic sports to improve cardiovascular endurance. Swimming allows people to decrease their risk for heart disease, but also build strength and enhances natural flexibility. Being a low impact sport, it is also a great rehabilitative sport due to the reduced risk of muscle and joint injury.
Flying Fish Swimming also wants to create employment opportunities for young people by providing training and job opportunities to become swim teachers, coaches and managers. The program aims to train at least 12 young people as swim instructors from different communities in Port Vila and semi-urban communities in its first year. These twelve instructors will be given management training so that they can then create a small scale business scheme for themselves teaching swimming in their villages.