A concerted push is on in Tonga to introduce more people to swimming. With the highest drowning death rate in the Pacific, water safety is a top concern for the island country.
Local swimming coaches Poli Faleafa and Mele Taunisila are teaching this lifesaving skill to children through the Pacific Sports Partnerships (PSP) program. Like so many other kids, Poli once feared the water. As a child she didn’t learn how to be safe in the ocean and didn’t build the confidence that is so crucial to swimming. For Mele, swimming was her daily workout as a girl, often racing home from school to go for a swim. Both had different first experiences with the water, but both are now passionate about promoting water safety and making sure all Tongan children can grow up enjoying the ocean.
Through the PSP, Swimming Australia are working to share Australia’s expertise in inclusive community sport and train instructors like Poli and Mele to build local knowledge and capacity. There are, of course, other benefits to the program – the kids get to build confidence, overcome challenges and increase fitness. Across nine countries in the Pacific, Australian sport for development programs are working to empower people, provide opportunities for healthier lifestyles and build resilient communities.
The new swimming skills the Tongan children have learned might develop into a passion for the sport, might just be a fun and active pastime, or might just save a life.
More information: Swimming safely: The skills three women are spreading in Tonga to save lives