Indigenous Swimming and Water Safety program

swimmingThe Indigenous Swimming and Water Safety program more than doubled its number of participants in Alberta in 2019-20.  At 12 communities across the province, the swim program shared stroke techniques and essential lifesaving skills with 415 people on their local lakes and rivers.
The program began in 2013 with the goal of addressing tragic losses in Indigenous communities. Red Cross program manager Lesley-Anne Morley says the Learn to Swim course has been the main focus. But Red Cross instructors also train people to be lifeguards and swimming instructors so ultimately, they can run courses on their own. The program has also expanded to offer a variety of first aid and prevention and safety programs, including babysitting and stay safe courses for children, as well as workshops on ice and boating safety.
In the past year, three new communities took part in the program at Tsuut’ina, Loon Lake and Chateh. In Tsuut’ina, Red Cross instructors taught swimming to 110 students in June 2019 as part of a school program. They also worked with youth leaders from the Louis Bull Tribe in the fall and winter to certify them to teach babysitting and stay safe courses.
Morley adds that her team made big inroads in relationship-building with partner communities.
“We actually had invites from the communities for instructors to join in on Treaty Day celebrations, a couple of powwows and three of our instructors joined in on a sweat,” she says, “which means they’re really embracing the team as part of the community. It is an honour to be invited to things like that, so it is a great sharing opportunity.”
The Indigenous Swimming and Water Safety Program also runs in Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario, with plans to expand into British Columbia, Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and Nunavut in 2021.
Adapting the Indigenous Swimming and Water Safety program for COVID-19

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