Teaching someone how to swim is a gift that lasts a lifetime. We hear about a foundation that’s bestowing exactly that gift of swimming on as many people as possible in Hong Kong. Splash Foundation teaches children and adults from low-income communities to learn to swim and enables them to experience the wellbeing benefits of the water through free swimming classes and programmes.
By connecting those who can swim with those who want to learn, Splash offers an opportunity that empowers people and delivers results. Since 2015, it has taught nearly 5,000 children and adults how to swim and be water-safe, running Learn to Swim Programmes for youths, adults and children with special educational needs.
Why learning to swim matters
Despite having the longest coastline of any city and an abundance of swimming pools, nearly half of the Hong Kong population doesn’t know how to swim. The team at Splash says that the opportunity to learn a new skill like swimming and to overcome fear can be exhilarating – it builds confidence and gives people a sense of accomplishment.
Swimming also releases endorphins. Regular swimming, even just half an hour at a time, is known to be effective for lowering depression and anxiety and improving sleep patterns.
The Splash team believe that everyone should have the opportunity to learn how to swim. They teach people how to be water-safe and enable them to experience the wellbeing benefits of the water. Their Learn to Swim programmes provide beginner swimmers with 20 hours focused on buoyancy, controlled movements and forward propulsion.
Meet two of the team
Camille Cheng, Splash Ambassador
Camille is a dual citizen of Hong Kong and France – she was born and grew up in Hong Kong to a Taiwanese father and French mother. Camille represented Hong Kong at the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games in Rio and Tokyo respectively. As a Splash Ambassador, she works with Splash to encourage people to swim and to create greater accessibility to learning to swim so that more people can experience the wellbeing benefits of the water.
Karen Robertson, Splash Senior Coach
Karen moved to Hong Kong when she was six months old. Born in Scotland, she arrived here by ship in the early 60s with her parents. Karen represented Hong Kong at the 1976 Olympics, and is the co-owner of FloatPlus swim school. As a Splash Senior Coach, she manages one of the handful of locations where Splash conducts programmes. She also advises on curriculum development and helps to train volunteer coaches.
Camille first got involved with Splash when working on her master’s thesis at Chinese University of Hong Kong, which was about the effects of swimming on the psychological wellbeing of foreign domestic workers in Hong Kong. As part of her research for the thesis, she interviewed domestic workers in the Splash programmes. Their stories helped to reconnect Camille with her love for the sport at a time when she was struggling to see it beyond just times and rankings.
“The women I spoke with had such energy and positivity,” she says. “It was inspiring how powerful the experience of learning to swim has been for them. It has given me a new perspective into what swimming is all about.”
Karen, meanwhile, had been giving swim classes to domestic workers over the years at her swim school when she came across Splash. She saw there was an opportunity to make a difference on a much larger scale and became involved as a Senior Coach.
“I get immense joy and happiness from what I do with Splash!” says Karen. “Volunteering with Splash allows me to bring my knowledge and experience every Sunday; it’s one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done.”
Water for Wellbeing
Camille and Karen were both recently involved in Splash’s inaugural Water for Wellbeing swim, held on 15 November. Along with four other swimmers, they set the record for the first all-women relay to swim the 45km around Hong Kong Island. In the process, they raised over a million HK dollars, which will enable Splash to teach more than 500 children and adults.
Find out more about Splash Foundation by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or visiting splashfoundation.org.
How EL readers can contribute or volunteer
By donating $2,000, you can help Splash teach someone to swim and be watersafe – it’s a transformative gift that lasts a lifetime. To find out more, visit splashfoundation.org/en/donate. If you’re a confident swimmer, you might also like to consider becoming a volunteer coach! Splash says that while some people think that to teach swimming you need a great technique, the most important skill is in fact patience.
You can register your interest to attend the next volunteer training session at splashfoundation.org/en/coach.
Photos by Anthony Kwan & Kenny Li
This article first appeared in the Winter 2022/23 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.