12 Days of Christmas: Thousands learning vital water skill

By Vaimoana Tapaleao

Richard Walker says around 270,000 children have learned to swim through the programme. Picture / Paul Estcourt
Richard Walker says around 270,000 children have learned to swim through the programme. Picture / Paul Estcourt

This Christmas, the Herald is again featuring charities selected for a $10,000 donation from Auckland Airport. The $120,000 to be distributed came from change donated by travellers

Being able to swim is a vital skill to learn - and for everyone, it could one day be a lifesaver.

The John Walker Find Your Field of Dreams Foundation is one organisation that is helping thousands of Kiwi children learn how to swim every year.

The charitable trust, chaired by Olympic gold medallist Sir John Walker, has been selected to receive $10,000 as part of the Auckland Airport 12 Days of Christmas annual donations programme.

Established in 2008, Find Your Field of Dreams was set up to encourage youngsters in South Auckland to get active in sport.

The project has several programmes, including the Community Swim programme.

Through this, up to 14,500 students in Years 3, 4 and 5 from 78 schools receive free swimming lessons each year.

A trustee for the foundation, Sir John's son Richard Walker, said the swim programme was very popular not only with students but also school teachers and parents.

"This is our flagship programme and our most expensive and most popular.

"Around 270,000 kids have gone through. The feedback from the teachers is that the kids love to come to school for the swimming lessons," he said.

More than 100 people drowned each year so it was very important for children to be confident in the water.

As part of the programme, Find Your Field of Dreams buses go out to schools to pick up students and take them to various aquatic and pool centres around the old Manukau City area - where entry is also free.

The buses then take the students back to school once the lesson has finished.

"It means that parents don't have to worry about taking kids to the pool - it's as simple as dropping them off to school," Mr Walker said.

The $10,000 grant will go towards the maintenance costs of a new portable pool that will be used in four primary schools in Mangere - one for each term.

The pool is heated, covered and secured.

Auckland Airport general manager corporate affairs Charles Spillane said the foundation was a worthy recipient of a 12 Days of Christmas charity grant.

"The Community Swim programme is a fantastic initiative that benefits a huge number of young people each year," Mr Spillane said.

"It is fantastic that the pool we are funding will be helping schools within our local community of Mangere."

- NZ Herald

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