Tuesday 31 January 2006
From: Mike Fonfe
Received by: Email.
A Swimming Christmas in Sri Lanka
For the Women’s Swimming Project, Xmas and the anniversary of the Boxing Day Tsunami at Palm Forest Plantation were to be a family event. Family in that Christina and her Sri Lankan swimming teachers, Inki Abeyrathna and Pauline Wijesinthe, would be joined by swimming teacher members of Christina’s family and, together, they would all teach whole, extended families to swim – mother, father, children, aunts, grannies, the lot.
This turned out to be a very popular idea and it marked the first time that any of the family members present had taken part in mixed bathing together. The event proved to be great fun, gave the youngsters a chance to show off and tell their parents “Come on in, it’s easy!”
In addition, the arrival of the STA’s gift of a submersible rescue manikin, checked in on Air Sri Lanka Flight UL502 as “Orange Man”, enabled the serious business of rescuing a “body” from the bottom of the pool to be practised. The home-made diving-suit-and-coconut “Green Man” can now retire and presumably raise a baby coconut plantation of his own.
The end of the working year was marked by a family swimming party and presentation of the first ASA and STA Swimming Teacher Certificates and NARS Pool Helper Certificates to Sri Lankan swimmers.
Christmas Day on a beach in the tropics is very different from hot mince pies and brandy butter taken huddled around a fire in the front living room. The braver women out here dared themselves to take a Xmas dip in the sea and stand up to a little surf simply in order to be able to say “I did it!”.
In addition to the pool at Palm Forest, we now have the generous loan of a gorgeous private swimming pool right on the Talaramba beachfront. The New Year thus opens with the prospect of our two Sri Lankan swimming teachers, Pauline and Inki, each teaching their own groups of swimmers in their own two pools. We are therefore looking forward to redoubling our efforts to get even more Sri Lankan women swimming in 2006.
All of our classes are full; we now urgently need more pools to enable us to expand the project as we have long waiting lists but nowhere else to teach. The follow-up of UK swimming teachers volunteering their services to come over to Sri Lanka in the coming year has been overwhelming and it will take us some time to plan how best to deploy such a pool of voluntary talent.
Finally, from all of us, from the swimming teachers and Sri Lankan women and young girls at the front line, to the “back office” workers writing reports, collecting swimsuits, administering funds, and keeping the project in the public eye, we would like to offer an enormous Thank You to all you members of the public who have so generously donated so much this year.
Without your offers of time, money and equipment, the Sri Lankan women in the south of the Island would not be swimming today. Their message to you is:
Thank You. I can now swim!