SINGAPORE — In partnership with the South East Community Development Council (CDC), the Singapore Aquatics have embarked on an ‘Empowering Lives through Aquatics’ initiative, a free learn-to-swim programme to equip vulnerable children and youth with water survival and swimming competency skills. The programme was launched by South East District Mayor Fahmi Aliman and Singapore Aquatics President Mark Chay at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.
Currently, about 50 children and youth residing in the South East district have enrolled in the programmes. The objective is to increase the number of participants to 400 within the next year. The 52-week programme will be conducted by the Torpedo Swim School every week at the OCBC Aquatic Centre. This programme utilises the national water safety syllabus, known as SwimSafer. It aims to enable children and youth aged 6 to 14 to successfully complete the first three stages of SwimSafer by the end of their participation in the programme.
Expressing his delight at the launch of this new partnership between Singapore Aquatics and South East CDC, Mayor Fahmi said, “We are giving them the opportunity to have formal training so that they can swim better, and allow professionals to teach them certain skills. That is something unique, and not many families have that opportunity, especially the vulnerable and families in need.”
“I didn’t learn swimming at that young age. So to see the smiles from these kids and eagerness for them to get into the water, it would bring them that hope and opportunity that they want to try this. When I was a kid, I just played football and I only learned swimming during my poly days. So I feel that it is good to bring it (swimming) to these families.”
Through this program, participants will achieve key learning milestones that include the ability to swim continuously for 50 meters, tread water for a minute, and correctly fit a personal floating device in water. Joining for lessons in the pool during the launch are Rayhan, a nine-year-old, and Chelsea, a seven-year-old, children of former Singapore national badminton player Hendri Saputra.
“Until now I can’t say whether they like badminton or swimming. I just go ahead and let them try it, both swimming and badminton. Since they like to play with water, I decided that they should join this programme. As a former national badminton player, I don’t force them to choose any sports but recently they have tried badminton too,” expressed Saputra who won multiple SEA Games medals and two bronze medals at the Commonwealth Games for Singapore.
Singapore Aquatics president Chay hopes to roll out the Empowering Lives through Aquatics programme to other districts, involve more affiliates and expand the scope to incorporate other aquatic disciplines over the next three years.
“One of the things that we really want to do in accordance to our mission of making every Singaporean a swimmer is to make everyone water confident. Some of these kids may not have access to training facilities or access to training programs. We are stepping in to give them a chance. If they show potential and are willing to train hard, they potentially can go into our five aquatic sports in competitive programs – swimming, diving, artistic swimming, water polo, and open water swimming,” shared Chay.
National swimmer Nur Marina Chan was at the launch to support the programme and help them choose their swimming gear. She hopes this programme will provide opportunities for children from all backgrounds to discover the joy of swimming and pursue their passion for the sport.
“As a national athlete, there’s a sense of excitement and happiness because I’ve always wanted the sport to be something that anyone from any walk of life could come in and find their pleasure. Because at the start, I was never looking at swimming to be a national athlete, but more of I fell in love with swimming because I was given the opportunity. To be able to give opportunity to these kids, it’s something I’m very proud that Singapore Aquatics has taken a step towards,” said Marina.