Christian Friends of New Americans and the Lutheran High School South girls swim team recently partnered to provide free swimming lessons to refugee children in St. Louis. Inspired by the passing of Henry Manu, a Lutheran South student from Liberia who died in a drowning incident last year, the program’s main objective was to teach those with little to no swimming experience basic life-saving skills such as treading water and floating. The hope was that if ever in an emergency situation, the children would not panic, but remain calm and use their newly learned swimming skills. The program ran for 4 weeks, from February 18th-March 11th at Affton High School, with an average attendance of 30+!
Though some children did not participate in the program initially due to fear of being forced to swim in deep water right away, most of them chose to participate in later sessions after hearing the excitement from their participating friends. Overall, the student feedback was very positive. One Ethiopian participant attended all four sessions and asked, “When do we have swim lesson next? I and my family want to come. We don’t want to miss it for anything.” Another student, a boy from Syria, exclaimed, “Swim good…I bring my brothers also!”
Executive Director of CFNA, Stanish Stanley, says, “From a personal standpoint, having known these kids from close quarters, I would say that the swim program did create impact. First, it did break their fear of the water. Second, it did clear thoughts that they knew what to do in water. For instance, Matuda from Ethiopia, shared – ‘I thought I knew how to swim, but now I know it is difficult and I have to learn more!’ Third, it was a great friendship and fellowship opportunity for our kids to mingle with other kids from different countries; and also strike relationships with American kids from Lutheran South. The value of all this only time will tell, but I’m sure it was a good platform for cross-cultural learning.”
With it’s great success in both getting refugee children comfortable with the water, as well as the opportunity for fun and relationship-building, CFNA and Lutheran High South hope to provide more swimming lesson opportunities in the future.
Watch the video from KSDK/Channel 5 now!