Splash: Swimming Classes for Domestic Helpers
With Hong Kong’s summer season around the corner, it’s time to put winter behind us and get excited about spending time at the pool or the beach! But when it comes to having your helper lend a hand with watching the kids near the water, she may feel quite uneasy since most domestic helpers do not know how to swim. Many of them have never had a chance to acquire that particular life skill.
If you’d like your helper to join you at the beach, or accompany you on holiday, or aid you with minding the toddler by the pool, there’s a great program that can bring peace of mind to both you and your helper.
What is Splash?
Helpwise had the chance to visit Splash, a non-profit organization conducting free swim courses for domestic helpers. Splash launched in 2015 after founder and avid open water swimmer Simon Holliday noticed how domestic helpers liked to gather at local Hong Kong beaches on their days off. He observed helpers congregating by the shore to sing, dance, exercise, and eat, but only a few would venture into the water to swim.
After discovering that many helpers lack the ability to swim and feared open water, Simon and others in the swimming community decided to launch Splash, a swim school with the goal of teaching domestic workers how to swim and gain confidence in the water.
Domestic Helper Swimming Class
Splash swim classes are held on Sundays at Hong Kong International School (HKIS) in Tai Tam or Chinese International School in Braemer Hill. Taught by a rotation of 50 passionate volunteers who are led by a group of professional swim instructors, each class has a capacity of 30 students and are offered at no charge.
Students sign up via Facebook to reserve a spot and commit to an eight week program. Participants learn a series of skills including floating, controlled breathing, body alignment, freestyle basics, and survival backstroke. The course has proven to be very popular among helpers: in the most recent enrollment period, all 120 spots were filled within 5 hours!
We arrived early at HKIS on a cold, wintry day to observe a class. Despite the weather, the students enthusiastically gathered beside the pool in their swimming apparel, eager to start their 60 minute session. The goal of the eight-session beginner swim class is to teach students to swim the full length of the pool unassisted. We observed session number three, when the ladies were comfortable enough to put their heads in the water but were still practicing basic skills in the shallow half of the pool.
The session began with a five minute on-land warm up led by the lead instructor. During the warm up, the ladies practiced their strokes and stretched their muscles and joints. Next, each student was assigned to a group according to her swimming ability. Each group occupied a lane of the swimming pool and was coached by at least two instructors who taught the students various swimming techniques, such as floating, kicking, rolling, and strokes.
The swim instructors stayed in the water right alongside the students as they swam, sometimes fully supporting them under water for those who still could not swim independently. The coaches exuded tremendous positive energy, often cheering, “I’m right here with you!” or “You can do it!” And when a student achieved a personal swimming milestone, such as swimming to the platform independently, their coaches and classmates cheered and celebrated them.
There was a strong sense of camaraderie among the students and coaches alike. Seeing so many matching Splash swim caps in the pool, and hearing coaches encouraging the students by name, created such a positive atmosphere–everyone working towards the same goal of helping these ladies learn how to swim.
Signing your helper up for these free swim classes at Splash is not only beneficial to your family, but beneficial to your helper and your working relationship with her. Improved physical fitness can give your helper newfound energy and good health, which is important for proper and consistent work in your home.
We’ve also discovered that when an employer tells their helper of good resources such as Splash swim classes (you’d be surprised how many helpers have not heard about classes that are available to them!), it can help raise their helper’s morale and motivation, and thus improve her overall outlook and performance on the job.
The next swim class will run from Apr 17 to Jun 5, but you may want to: (1) “Like” their Facebook page (2) Mark your calendars for registering on March 20 if you want a chance to sign your helper up, since registration opens that day and spots fill up quickly!