East Timorese taught to swim
INSTRUCTOR Meg Fisk is teaching orphans and impoverished mothers and their babies to swim in an unlikely setting – the private pool of East Timorese Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao.
Volunteering her time and finances, Ms Fisk held her first learn-to-swim course in the East Timor capital of Dili in August.
She said her friendship with Mr Gusmao’s wife Kirsty had facilitated the Timor-based swim school.
“I studied East Timor culture at Southern Cross University and got in contact with Kirsty as a part of those studies,” Ms Fisk said.
“We became friends through email over the past eight years.”
Ms Fisk runs the Water Babies swim school in Byron Bay and has been instructing for 10 years.
She said she had wanted to start the swim school in Dili some time ago but civil unrest had thwarted her efforts.
But circumstance, such as being orphaned or poor, has not dampened the children’s enthusiasm for learning to swim.
“Every day they were arriving an hour early for the class,” Ms Fisk said.
“They don’t speak any English but they give 110 per cent and I have been able to teach them the fundamentals of swimming through the language of the body, rather than through speech.
“They were very capable of doing everything by copying me.”
In some parts of Asia, including East Timor, drowning is a leading cause of death.
Ms Fisk said although she would return to teach CPR, it would not be possible to run the swim school in the Prime Minister’s private pool on a continual basis.
“We do need to find somewhere else,” she said. “A purpose-built facility is what we really need.”
Ms Fisk said she had received just two quotes for a swimming pool to be constructed, after sending 30 requests to Australian builders.
“I don’t think people realise that there are organisations that will pay for the facility to be built but I need to have the plans first,” Ms Fisk said.
International organisation ChildFund arranged for the Dili residents to take part in the swim course.
Anyone interested in assisting Ms Fisk with seeking grants or with the swim school can contact her via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.