Friday 1 December 2006
From: Mike Fonfe
Received by: .
DECEMBER 2006 UPDATE
As the second anniversary of the December 2004 Tsunami approaches, the Sri Lanka Women’s Swimming Project can reflect on its achievement teaching over 300 women to swim. Moreover, five of those initial swimmers have since trained to become swimming teachers. The highlight of the year was to have Sri Lanka’s own Olympic swimmer, Julian Bolling, present the newest crop of WSA Student Swimming Teachers with their teaching certificates on behalf of the Project.
For this singular event, Christina Fonfe, the Project Founder, flew out to Sri Lanka between chemo therapy treatments in order to attend the presentation ceremony for the girls, Umesha De Silva, Dinusha De Silva and Sanduni Samrarathna at Colombo’s Rainbow Swimming Academy. After the presentation, the girls and their parents were treated to a celebratory lunch before making their long way back to Merissa, in the south of the island.
This is the second batch of promising swimmers to advance rapidly from being total non-swimmers to swimming teachers in less than a year, making their achievement all the more remarkable. Success can be put down to Christina’s and Pauline’s devoted teaching of American Terry Laughlin’s Total Immersion method and the student’s enthusiasm to learn.
The Project is temporarily without a permanent pool of its own, as the grace-and-favour use of its secluded coconut plantation pool has ceased due to the property being put up for sale. In the meantime, swimming instruction for women is taking place back where the Project began immediately after the tsunami: that is at hotel swimming pools on the beach. The difference is that this time the instructors are local Sri Lankans, not visiting Britons.
In addition to swimming, the girls are qualified in pool rescue, resuscitation and first aid and hold the internationally recognised UK Blue Cross Certificate. And Sanduni is the only one of all the Project’s local swimming teachers who is experienced in swimming pool maintenance as well; indeed, she is probably the only female on the south coast of Sri Lanka who can test pool water, decide on the correct chemical dose, mix and add the chemicals, use an underwater vacuum cleaner and backwash the pool filtration system. That’s woman power at work.
Teaching grown up women and teenage girls will remain the first priority of the Project as females in Sri Lanka are still largely held back by cultural restraints from appearing in swimsuits. This is being overcome by the kind initiative of Canadian Rhonda Potter, who designed and developed a suitably modest new swimsuit in local style; not only did she send over completed example swimsuits but she included the patterns, fabric samples and suppliers details and even the special sewing machine needles needed to stitch the stretch fabric. Finally, in a huge cultural leap forward, the girls have already taught their first adult male student to swim. The Project will, however, essentially remain true to its name as a women’s swimming project as we respect the majority wish for women to learn to swim in privacy in these rural coastal communities.
The Goal for 2007 will be to continue to expand the base of women swimmers and swimming teachers. Those who have already been trained will be encouraged to advance to higher international standards. The efforts of the swimmers have been recognised by the recent voting of the International Federation of Swimming Teachers Associations to award the Sri Lanka Women’s Swimming Project Associate Membership of the IFSTA and invite it to report on progress in Sri Lanka at the next International Conference to be held in Taiwan in 2008. The Project continues to raise funds towards building a permanent, small secluded women’s swimming pool facility on the south coast and is in the process of developing tri-lingual web-based training material which it is hoped can then be downloaded from the internet.
We conclude the year by thanking all our donors for their generous support and look forward to saving further lives by teaching swimming wherever we can in Sri Lanka.
Donations may be made directly to the Women’s Swimming Project bank account, details can be provided on request.
[Please email firstname.lastname@example.org when making a donation so we can thank donors personally and keep them abreast of how the Project is developing].
Alternatively, you can send your donation made out to “The Sri Lanka Women’s Swimming Project” by Snail Mail to:
The Sri Lanka Women’s Swimming Project