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Winkler – Newcomers Never Being to a Pool Sparks New Pilot Program

July 22, 2019

According to Regional Connections in Winkler, approximately 80 percent of those who registered through them for swimming lessons, had never taken formal swimming lessons before, or been to an organized pool.

In response to this staggering number, the organization teamed up with the city to provide a water safety and swim day at the Winkler Aquatic Centre.

“It’s important for newcomers to learn about the Canadian context and society,” says Alesha Hildebrand Volunteer and Integration Coordinator. “Having swimming as part of this information is really important to understand what everyday Canadians take part in.”

She adds one of the reasons many newcomers haven’t been to a local pool is because they don’t know the rules, are unsure if they’re children are old enough, or if they even can swim, and these sessions can help with those concerns.

The session Saturday allowed parents to ask what are the rules of the pool, and to learn more about water safety, which lifeguard Lani Ens says they are happy to do.

“A big thing our facility has is the within arms reach rule, so if you have a child that’s six or under, they need to be within arms reach of a parent or guardian. Making sure they know the rules of our facility, the do’s and dont’s, just our danger areas and not only rules of our facility but water safety in general, the beach, the lake, stuff like that.”

Lani says they encourage swimming lessons, not only for the kids, but for the parents as some don’t have formal swimming lessons themselves.

“Drownings can happen in a matter of seconds,” says Lani. “It’s kind of hard to think about sometimes, but we need to make sure people are water safe, because there won’t always be lifeguards to help them out.”

Hildebrand adds the pool has been incredibly accommodating, allowing people to wear appropriate cultural attire, as they don’t want people feeling they can’t go to the pool.

Although only around forty people signed up for this year’s water safety and swim day, Hildebrand hopes they can continue to grow the event. She says if they can get the appropriate funding, they want to expand the program and allow more people to take part.

Regional Connections hopes to help immigrant families to enjoy the same activities Canadian born residents do.
Families could sign up with Regional Connections to learn about water safety and go for an afternoon swim.

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