There was a storm at the pool in Hilversum ‘t Gooische Bad because the pool offers free swimming lessons for children and adults who can’t afford the lessons. The swimming pool has recently been opened for this purpose along with the Hilversum Food Bank and Youth Sports Fund. “The problem of people who can’t afford swimming lessons is worse than we think,” says owner Sheva de Winter.
Ukrainian refugee children and adults have been learning to swim in the Hilversum Pool for some time now. In recent months, de Winter has heard more and more that there are more and more children in his hometown who cannot go to swimming lessons because of their parents’ limited budget.
Specifically, because Hilversummer also draws national attention to swimming safety and stresses the importance of teaching swimming, he decided to contact the local Food Bank and Youth Sports Fund. In this way he wants to extend a helping hand to Hilversummers who have to appeal to the food bank.
The three have been working together for a month now. The fact that there is a great demand for swimming lessons, De Winter deduces from the number of registrations. The counter is now at sixty. New requests will come every day. Not only from Hilversum there is interest in his initiative. The Huizen Food Bank has already knocked on its door.
Tip of the iceberg
“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” De Winter reports to NH News. He adds, “There are way more kids without a swimming certification than we realize. We have to scratch our heads; this is really the forgotten target group that just grew up.”
We have also received applications from children up to the age of 17 and up to eight adults.
What amazes him, in addition to dozens of quick enrollments, is that many “older” kids want to take swimming lessons. In the Netherlands it is customary to start lessons around the age of five. De Winter is seeing a definite age shift due to all the waiting lists and backlogs incurred due to lockdowns in corona times.
A large group
Many of the children who have now signed up are over the age of seven and there is a large group 10 or more years older. “We also received applications from children up to the age of 17 and even from eight adults who wanted to get their degree,” he says.
Even before the kids get a proper start on the All Kids With a Swimming Diploma project, a huge problem arises. The National Youth Sports Fund, which makes it financially possible for young people to obtain a swimming certification, is short of money.
All children who register for the new year can simply swim in De Winter, but for everyone else there is a place in the box waiting list. Hilversummer says he’s trying to retrieve part of the latter group in a different way. For example, there should be room for new registrations and it stays that way.
“So we won’t be able to continue this project, which is a real shame given the influx,” says a worried de Winter. Then Hilfersifer looks mainly at the municipality. He hopes that Hilversum will contribute financially as one of the sponsors of the fund, so that everyone can get a swimming diploma. Thus, Hilversum makes an important contribution to swimming safety, he argues.
Special swimwear for teens is required
Many parents, knocking on the door of the food bank, cannot afford swimming lessons, but this also applies to swimwear. “This is really something we haven’t thought about,” Shiva de Winter admits now that the project is about to begin. “If the weather is nice and you can’t go swimming, don’t have expensive swimwear.” He himself still had a stock of swimwear from the time he still had a shop on Havenstraat, but it’s nowhere near enough.
Other members’ parents were asked if they would like to donate swimwear that their children no longer use. Outside help was also called in. We hope that enough swimming suits, swimming trunks, swimming shoes and towels will be donated. For example, ‘t Gooische Bad works with the clothing bank.
This clothing aid started slowly. In the Hilversum pool, they are mainly looking for unusual sizes. Precisely because so many teens have signed up, which is a very uncommon age for swimming lessons, the need for larger sizes is high. The owner of the pool said, “These are the things we’re facing right now. It’s been a mystery for a while. It’s good to see that people are thinking along the way on all sides.”