Dec 01, 2015 • 6 min read
A determined woman named Jeanevy rests against a floating shark net overlooking sunny, upscale Repulse Bay beach in Hong Kong, China. She’s breathing hard, trying to catch her breath after swimming a third of a mile through the bay.
Six months ago Jeanevy didn’t know how to swim, but on this day she is strong. After holding her own in an open water swimming race against life long swimmers, she requested this extra session from her coach. Jeanevy catches her breath then turns to her friend and says, “This is harder than picking rice in the fields. It’s even harder than milking cows.” Jeanevy is indeed a determined woman.
Team sports have the unique ability to bring people together in a way not many other activities can. Learning new skills while feeling supported and working towards common goals are just some of the many positive attributes that come with being on a team. These attributes are especially appreciated by a group of foreign domestic workers living in Hong Kong who are enrolled in the multicultural Splash Swim School. For these folks living away from their families, being a part of Splash Swim School allows them to participate in something new while building a sense of community in foreign country.
We are proud to have Splash Swim School, a non-profit organization on a mission to help foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong learn to swim and be safe in the water, in the TeamSnap family.
“Swimming has been a unifier that has allowed us to realize we have more in common than we probably thought,” says Shu Pu, one of Splash Swim School’s founders and a volunteer coach. “It has brought a very diverse group of people together. We feel very grateful to know Jeanevy and the other Splash swimmers. We’ve learned as much from them as they have from us. They have brought a lot of joy to our lives.”
Splash’s programs are free for participants, all of whom live on relatively low incomes and send most of what they earn in Hong Kong back home to support their families in the Philippines, Indonesia and other Western Pacific/South East Asian countries.
In March 2015, swimmer Simon Holliday and a group of volunteer swim coaches started Splash Swim School. The first class included 30 participants in an eight-week program at the Hong Kong International School pool (a 10-minute drive from Repulse Bay beach). In November 2015, 120 students graduated from the program.
With close to 320,000 foreign domestic workers living in Hong Kong, Splash Swim School has many goals. The primary goal is to ensure more foreign domestic workers are safe in the water and to reduce the risk of drowning. Repulse Bay is a popular beach resort, and many locals and tourists visit each year to enjoy the sun and sand. Safety on any beach is always a priority.
By teaching the essential life skill of swimming, Splash aims to help students improve overall health and well-being while building confidence and self-esteem both in and out of the water. The all-volunteer team at Splash Swim School also hopes to show that Hong Kong is a caring society that values the contribution foreign domestic workers make to the culture and economy.
The biggest challenge they face is sustainability. Shu explains, “We’re a group of volunteers who love swimming. However, we need to continue to attract experienced and dedicated coaches from different sections of Hong Kong as well participants in order to expand.”
And expand is just what Splash plans to do. “Like any organization, we need to stay true to our founding values which is a challenge as we get bigger and more diverse. We need to make sure inexperienced coaches receive comprehensive training to meet the highest coaching standards.”
By the end of 2016, Splash expects to have helped more than 800 foreign domestic workers learn to swim, with the majority reaching intermediate level.
Shu had been using TeamSnap for other sports teams in Hong Kong and brought it to the coaches at Splash in September. Prior to using TeamSnap, the group relied on a combination of emails and other apps which was a “nightmare,” says Shu. “Imagine messaging back and forth with 60 students, it was very, very time consuming.”
Next season Shu plans to incorporate TeamSnap’s registration feature for new Splash students and says, “TeamSnap made the logistics much more streamlined and professional. It’s very handy for managers to send out notices and announcements.”
The coaches at Splash are currently developing a unique eight-course curriculum, as well as an intermediate program. Splash Swim School graduates have had fantastic success in the water and some have even chosen to take their sport to the next level. Ten swimmers have started competing at various local open water swimming events and are already snapping up category medals!
Student Naïve Gascon struggled through much of her first race. “The waves became oppressive, and I was wishing that Coach Freddie would just push me to the beach.” After a few moments, Naïve steadied herself and focused on breathing as she’d been taught. Her struggle turned to inspiration as she imagined “then from the bottom of the sea, an anemone believed that maybe I can,” and she powered through to complete her first race.
TeamSnap and beach bums everywhere offer a hearty “Thank you!” to everyone at Splash Swim School. Not only are you spreading the love of team sports, you are helping to make people safer in the process and that is truly commendable.
If you’d like to get involved or find out more about Splash Swim School please visit their Facebook page.
Kat Burke is a writer and communications consultant for TeamSnap. She grew up in a small beach community south of Boston and has loved to swim since she was 3 years old.