Thirty-two children between the ages of 8-18 are currently undergoing a month-long swimming training at the Armed Forces Joint Officers Mess at Kotu.
The training organized and coordinated by Swim for Life Gambia aims at minimizing drown and death related cases and to introduce swimming as a sport to Gambian children at a tender age.
Speaking at the official opening ceremony, the director of quality control, Gambia Tourism Board, Mamodou Bah said he is delighted to see Swim for Life Gambia roll out season two of its project, citing the benefits the project has.
“My son was opportuned to be among the children trained in the first phase. After the training he took swimming a sport he wants to do. He continued training with the Gambia Swimming Association and this year he represented The Gambia in a swimming competition in Nigeria,” Bah told the gathering.
He advised the participants to take the lessons seriously and called on parents to support their children by constantly visiting the Mess to see what is being done with their kids.
The president of the Red Dolphin and Life Guard Association, Jainaba Jallow who also doubles as the Chief Executive Officer of the Swim for Life Gambia, said drowning is real and that all stakeholders must join hands to minimize the number of drown cases. She said her association has recorded 182 drown cases and 36 deaths from 2017 to date. This according to her is alarming.
Jainaba called on philanthropists, the government through the Ministry of Youth and Sports, the education ministry and the Ministry of the Interior to join hands with Swim for Life Gambia, saying that such project is possible due to the timely intervention of a Norwegian, Ove-Kenneth Nilsen. “My worry now is, should Ove decide to stop his support after this project, what then will we do because we hire a pool, pay trainers and some other logistics involved?”
The coordinator of the project, Sang Mendy thanked parents for entrusting them with their children and assured them that their kids are in safe hands.
He added that the project intends to train as many people as possible. “We are focusing on children because they are the most vulnerable but as time goes on and with the demand from elders increasing, we might consider training adults too.”
He promised that come December, the project will train 20 interested journalists on how to swim. This he said is to encourage journalists to report on swimming like they do for other sports and also report on the number of drown cases in The Gambia.
Swim for Life Gambia was initiated in 2016. Since its inception the project graduated 30 children some of whom have chosen swimming, as a sport while others no longer worry about drowning because they have since mastered the art of swimming.