Protecting and enriching the lives of children through aquatic education

30 degree warm, clear and turquoise water, great waves and "Nemo" swimming next to you - Indonesia, a dream for surfing and swimming. But not for everyone. While I was visiting our production in Bali, several Indonesians drowned during a ritual at the sea side.

I learned that this was unfortunately not an isolated case. The most common cause of death among children in the island nation is drowning. As a passionate water sportswoman and mother of 3, this hit me right in the heart.

I felt the need to take action. So I got in touch with the great people at @swimdo. They teach water safety and swimming to children. Completely free of charge for the kids. I spoke to Indira Santi and her team and saw their fantastic, loving commitment.

I wanted to support their efforts. Our cooperation partner Marie from Zealous was all in. For every item sold from our swim/surf collection, we finance 1 hour of lessons for 1 child and thus make more water safety possible together with our community. And for every completely shared #mysaltystory, we give one more.

Will you join in too?

Katja from Waterkoog

Interview with Indira Santi

Katja from Waterkoog: What do you actually do at Swimdo?

Indira from Swimdo: I am the Program Director at Swimdo, my job is to help manage day-to-day program activities. I am also in charge of student recruitment and scouting/setting up new locations to expand our program.

How is it that children who grow up on an island with such beautiful water cannot swim or are afraid of water?

Growing up here, I never thought this is an issue, actually, until Swimdo's founder mentioned to me how weird it is that we live around the water, but most of us cannot swim. Swimming is not taught in most grade schools in Bali, and private lessons are not an option for most families. My first introduction to swimming was when my school gave me a swimming class when I was 15 years old. It wasn't enough to teach me even survival swimming, it was once a week class for just two months with more than 40 students and only one teacher. Some children are afraid of big water here because they do not know how to swim. What's worse are the many children who are unable to swim and still do not understand the risks of big water.

How do you go about introducing the children to water?

In general, children love water, they love to play in the water, but only where they can stand with their head above it. Some are afraid of big water including the pool because they had a bad experience with it. Most children who are afraid of water once witnessed a friend drown or had a near-drowning experience themselves. In Swimdo we introduce children to keep themselves and their friends safe while playing in the water. We teach children survival swimming, rescue, and looking out for risks in and around the water. 

How old are the kids? How often / long do you teach them?

We start to teach 7-13 years old, we also sometimes teach 14-17 years teenager. We run classes every day for 10-12 week sessions.

How many children have you been able to teach to swim?

We have taught more than 5000 children since 2015.

It must be great to see the kids progressing and enjoying the water. What is the feedback from the kids?

They love our class, the free-swimming class, and they love their instructors. It is also a great time for them to learn in a supervised environment with their friends. I love to see how they are progressing. The first time they were afraid to be in the middle of the pool, but by the end of the class they were competing to swim with their friends.

How do parents feel about their kids learning to swim? Do they support you or are they rather skeptical?

Most parents are happy to let their kids learn to swim with us, but there are some who are skeptical. This is why we also offer greater community education about the risks of drowning and how to stop them.

Swimdo is such an inspiration. Who founded Swimdo and how did the idea of teaching children to swim in Bali come about?

Swimdo was founded by Seamus, a surfer from California. In 2012 he was volunteering in a learning center where I study English. We became friends and hung out many times. Seamus is a surfer, so he often asked us to go into the water with him, but we always refused and said we would die if we go into the water because none of us can swim. He then offered to teach us swimming, this is where the idea of Swimdo started. The first student of Swimdo was me and some of my other friends. Now the first Swimdo students run Swimdo and teach more children. This is how we start a movement and continue to grow.

We as Waterlovers and surfers love the ocean and think your project is sooo great and what you are doing has such an impact on so many lives. Do you teachers also like to swim or even surf in private?

Now all of us swim daily. After we finish teaching we swim a lot. The pool is our favorite place, even when we go on training or team outings, we still look for swim related activities, beach, snorkeling, etc. However, none of us have started to surf yet. Maybe when Seamus returns to visit he will teach us to surf and maybe we can start a school. Surfdo!