Regina swim club gives free lessons to new Canadians

Young New Canadians are learning how to swim from The Regina Dolphins Optimist Swim Team at the Lawson Aquatic Centre Tuesday evenings.

Regina Optimist Dolphin Swim Team is making a splash in the lives of immigrant children

A swimmer with the Regina Optimist Dolphin Swim Team holds a young boy as he learns to put his face in the water. (Samanda Brace/CBC News)

It sounds like any other swim class — there's splashing and children shrieking — but some of the kids have never seen a swimming pool before.

New Canadians aged five to 12 are being given the opportunity to learn to swim at the Lawson Aquatic Centre thanks to the Regina Optimist Dolphins Swim Team.

"I think there's all kinds of reasons a lot of them probably haven't even been to a swimming pool," said Nannette Choboter, team administer for the swim club. "Their life is just so different from what ours is, and I think it's important that we give back." 

According to the Lifesaving Society, people new to Canada are four times more likely to be unable to swim.

The swim team partnered with Open Door Society after a club volunteer, Twyla Armstrong, reached out with the idea.

All students are taught based on their swimming abilities. (Samanda Brace/CBC News)

"I think it's just about sharing our love of swimming and protecting kids who don't have the luxury of swimming lessons," said Armstrong.

"They are so happy to be here and the smiles are so awesome to see."

Each child is given a swim cap, goggles and a swimsuit if needed.

Three Regina Dolphins swimmers instruct the students based on their swimming abilities.

At the beginning of the class, students squeal with excitement as they jump into the water.

"We have quiet a range of ability levels, we have right from never been in a pool before or never had swimming lessons before, to some who have," said Kim Hebert, coordinator of the program.

"They were open to trying whatever the coaches asked them to do and just really enthusiastic."

If a child has never swam before, a coach will start by teaching them how to float and move using a pool noodle or kick board.

"We want to make sure they are comfortable but being challenged each time they come," said Hebert.

Hebert said the class will not only teach them how to swim but also to have respect for water safety in pools and lakes.

The free classes will be offered again in the summer and fall. (Samanda Brace/CBC News)

Ruel Maliany says his three kids look forward to coming to the Tuesday evening class. Tired after working a night shift, he gets up just to watch them swim.

"It's good for when they grow old and for their health, their body," said Maliany. "[I'm] just thankful for this program and for the community."

The program is funded by the province's Community Initiatives Fund and will also be offered in the summer and fall. The swim team also gives free swimming lessons to low-income children attending schools in North Central.

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