Fifteen-year-old Ufeesha, studying in the Government High School, Kovalam, was initially afraid to step into the water. “Today, after a three-day course in swimming, I’m thrilled to say I can save myself in case of an emergency and also rescue the others,” she said.
In the last three days, United Way of Chennai and the US Consulate General, Chennai, organized “Riding The Waves”, an event where swimming, life skills and ocean conservation were taught to a group of children from Kovalam.
Julia Harbaugh and Nora Deleske, members of the US Department of State’s Sports Envoy Program, trained the students in open water swimming.
“Learning in a beach was very different from a swimming pool. But we all loved swimming amidst waves,” Fouzia Muhamudha, another 15-year-old student from Kovalam, said.
Trainers Julia Harbaugh and Nora Deleske taking swimming lessons at Kovalam on Friday. | Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj
Meenakshi Ramesh, executive director, United Way of Chennai, said children had become confident enough after learning these lessons. “This is a great strength they have now developed and we hope that they take it to more people in their community. These small steps will make a world of difference in their lives. They carry with them the message that the ocean should not be polluted,” she said.
Ms. Harbaugh said it was heartening to see how happily and quickly children learned swimming. “Children now know that this is an ability and strength that no one can take from them,” she said.
Following this programme, both envoys will now head to Kozhikode in Kerala for training another group of children on open water swimming, life skills and ocean conservation.