Keeping children safe around and in water is the focus of a new initiative in Stratford.

Lizette Bretherton has started the Ako Wai Programme (AWP) to help fund swim lessons for youngsters in the district who would benefit from them.

"Kiwi kids are surrounded by water. We have great beaches, but we also live on farms with streams and ponds, we walk to school past rivers, homes have outdoor pools, there is water all around us. That water can be a hazard if children haven't learned some basic skills and confidence around it."

Lizette has worked as a swim instructor with the Flyers Swim School, and her own children have had lessons with the Flyers since they were babies.

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"I know first-hand how children's confidence grows the more they learn about swimming and water safety. I wanted to find a way to pass those benefits on to more children."

Lizette says she recognises there are a number of families who for various reasons are unable to fund extra curricular activities like swim lessons.

"Because of my experience, and passion for children to learn water skills, I talked to Aimee about how I could help families in need to be able to access swim instruction."

Aimee and Lizette came up with the idea of forming the Ako Wai Programme, to support swim education for the wider community in Stratford by sponsors funding swim lessons through the Flyers Swim School.

AWP is now seeking funding from sponsors to fund these lessons. The Flyers Swim School is offering the lessons at a discounted cost for individual children identified by AWP.

The next step, says Lizette, was working out how to identify children who would benefit.

"We will work collaboratively with local schools to identify children likely to benefit from the programme, and with this aim, we invited local teacher Sam Mako to join AWP to help with this."

Wearing her other hat as a real estate agent, Lizette has sponsored the first three children herself to get the programme started.

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"They started this term in lessons with Flyers and are really enjoying it so far."

Lizette is an agent with McDonald Real Estate, and she says the company will also be sponsoring an intake of children for a term.

"Aimee and I would love to hear from other businesses or individuals who would like to get involved in this initiative."

Lizette can be contacted on 021 110 5518.