Ben Hair Just Swim for Life (BHJSL) sponsors a number of Learn to Swim programs in the greater Charlottesville area. One of the most active is the program at City of Charlottesville Pool. Their program served over 200 underprivileged children in this summer alone, and they serve even more during the school year and summers past.
This summer there were eight groups of children who came in for swim lessons for six weeks. During lessons three lifeguards and three Water Safety Instructors--all donated by the City of Charlottesville--along with the help of 2-3 community volunteers, teach the children. This program would not be possible without the generosity of the City of Charlottesville and many wonderful volunteers!
The goal of the program is to transform the kids from being terrified of the water to confident with swimming one length of the pool on their front and back, as well as treading water in the deep end of the pool.
The children in this program all qualify for free or reduced lunches at school. Although the economic status of the swimmers is not diverse--they are all living below the poverty level--their cultural and racial backgrounds are. The program serves many swimmers who are refugees served by the IRC program and other swimmers who are recent immigrants to the United States. Swim lesson instructor Irene Newman stated: “Many of these swimmers do not speak English and we work to find ways to teach swimming that transcend that language barrier.”
For many of the participants, this is the only opportunity they have been given to learn how to swim. Most of these young swimmers do not have adults in their lives to teach them water and pool safety.
Another perk of attending lessons is that the children get to come to City pools for free during open swim. It is rewarding for the staff to see the children come in and show off their new swimming skills to friends and family.
Instructor Irene Newman believes Ben Hair Just Swim for Life truly is making a difference in the future of our youth. “We see our program changing beliefs [that learning swimming is unattainable] and creating confident swimmers [...] Our goal is to drown-proof our community, and teaching our kids how to be safe and confident swimmers is our surest bet to achieve that goal.”
If you would like to learn more about BHJSL, please visit our website at bhjsl.org, our Facebook page at “Ben Hair Just Swim for Life,” or our Twitter account @JustSwimForLife.