Thursday, 09 November 2017:  Community Swim, the flagship programme of the John Walker FIND YOUR FIELD OF DREAMS Foundation (FYFOD), marked a major milestone today with it’s ONE MILLIONTH Free swim lesson.

It was a big day for FYFOD at Vector Wero Whitewater park in Manukau this afternoon and an even bigger day for 9 year old Kiyana Kani-Ahokava , a year 5 girl from Yendarra Primary School in Otara,  selected by ballot  as the recipient of  the  special 1,000,000th FREE swim lesson at Vector Wero Whitewater Park in Wiri, Manukau.

What started as a pilot programme with 2 schools—Yendarra and Wakaaranga School (Farm Cove) back in June 2008, a month after Sir John’s Foundation was established, has grown to become one of the largest swimming programmes in the country. It now provides 8 FREE water skills for life lessons each year to almost 20,000 year 3, 4, 5 and 6 youngsters, from 90 primary schools across the wider Counties Manukau region.

Over the last nine years Sir John’s Foundation has raised more than $5.5 million for the flagship programme   which ensures FREE pool access, Free transport to and from school by four dedicated FYFOD buses plus FREE professional instruction

According to Sir John the success of Community Swim “has exceeded all expectations. We established the Foundation with the vision of ensuring the young people across the wider Counties and Manukau region get the opportunity to engage in regular sport and physical recreation with the goal of developing a new generation of  fit, active and healthy individuals who make positive choices and dare to pursue their dreams”.

“The ultimate goal is to develop future sporting champions. I hope one day some of our Community Swim youngsters go on to achieve international success, but in the meantime we are helping thousands of children gain greater confidence in the water, swim clubs are reporting increased membership and schools tell us there is less absences on the days students are involved in the programme.”

FYFOD General Manager Rick Pickard says the Community Swim programme has been widely recognized nationally with the NZ Sport & Recreation (SPARC) ‘Project Collaboration’ award in 2010 and the Sealord NZ Water Safety Award for Education in 2014.

“Current figures show drowning is the fourth highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand and we know Community Swim is making a difference  across  Auckland’s area of greatest need  where Pacifika, Maori and Asian children account for more than 30% of all national preventable drowning deaths.

“Of the 20,000 children aged 6-9 from 90 schools involved in Community Swim, 37% are Pacific Island, 24% Maori, 20% Asian and 19% NZ European and a recent survey shows 98% of the youngsters  to be ‘a lot more confident in the water’ after the lessons and 90%  reporting ‘marked improvement’ in their swimming skills. These figures are most encouraging.”

Mr Pickard says the total annual cost of the Community Swim programme is “now in the region of $ 450,000 annually. That includes FREE pool entry, FREE transport to and from school for the pupils in our dedicated fleet of four buses and NO charge for the lessons.

“To make this possible we are deeply indebted to our principal partner, The Lion Foundation, for their substantial support over the last nine years, and the continued support of Auckland Council, in a number of areas, the Potter Masonic Trust, WaterSafety New Zealand and the Swimgym instructors”.

Mr Pickard says the Foundation has been fortunate that its programme delivery and funding partners “have shared our vision of providing the opportunities for young people to pursue their sporting dream.”

This year FYFOD also introduced some additional components to Community Swim—the provision of an Introduction to Fast Moving Water Safety Programme for year 6 children from Decile 1 schools  at the Vector Wero Whitewater Park aimed at familiarising youngsters with moving water;  safer boating education in white water  and a Holiday Swim Programme for those youngsters keen to engage in more water activity.

Mr Pickard says FYFOD has also been contacted about taking Community Swim outside of Auckland.  And after a successful pilot in 2016 more than 1,000 children in Hamilton now embrace the Community Swim programme.

A delighted Year 5 Yendarra Primary pupil Kiyana Kani-Ahokava enjoys the spoils of the 1,000,000th FREE Community Swim lesson in Manukau today.