By: Maryann Hopkins
In the past, we had considered how helpful it would be if there was a swimming program for the kids. Since so many hotels were under capacity, Country Director Marcia Miranda, who was excited by the prospect of teaching kids swimming, located a hotel, Hotel Cordoba, with a large pool that was very accommodating. Owner, Gerardo Gomez Lacayo had seen the last of his guests leave shortly after the Christmas holiday season. Since the children were on school break for the month of January, Gerardo graciously permitted the use of his pool for swim classes. We started with two 'Basics of Swimming' classes with the kids at the beginning of 2021.
With the EI staff present to offer translation assistance and five enthusiastic boys, we began our first class. It could not have gone better. The kids were thrilled to be in such a grand pool were very committed to each lesson. Lessons include blowing bubbles through the nose while your face is submerged, complete immersion underwater, flutter board use, and kicking from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end. To close out the class, jumping from the side of the pool into the water, and then assisted to the pool stairs. The kids were excited to learn, hesitating at times with the inherent nervousness any non-swimmer has, but trying their best over and over again until mastering a new skill. Next up was the girl's group, and I have to admit, their enthusiasm and dedication to learning the lessons was even more intense.
That evening, I was reminded that I am no longer 21 years old, and the two hours of innumerable laps and assisting the kids, though thoroughly enjoyable, was also exhausting. By day two of the lessons, all apprehension was gone. The kids were 100% in and there was no longer any hesitation when attempting new activities. These included floating on their back, pedaling feet in an effort to tread water, dead man's float, dunking 10 times in a row taking a breath between each, and more confidence on the flutter board/laps. The first time I swam alongside one of my “swimmers” and I showed them that I was not supporting the flutter board at all, or that I had completely removed the supporting hands during their attempts at floating, the beaming smile in return was confirmation enough that this was all worth it.
The rest of the week, we reinforced all the skills taught, built up confidence, and of course, had a cannonball contest to see who could create the largest splash.
Within each group of 5 students, 3 had mastered everything we had taught them, with only two per class who would have benefited greatly from another week of lessons. Unfortunately for us, our time in Nicaragua was winding down and we had a return flight to Canada the following week.
The experience illustrated that a swimming program for our kids at EI is not only going to teach them valuable life skills, but it is also going to be embraced by the kids. Who doesn’t enjoy the pleasure it brings us as adults to make a child happy? We are now so proud that we have taught # children in 2021.
We do not know yet when we will next be able to return to Granada, but know with the determination and perseverance we have seen demonstrated by the EI staff, they will make things happen.
I would strongly encourage any donor to reach out to EI and volunteer in whatever capacity you can, especially if you are lucky enough to be in Nicaragua.