The UNB International Swim Program is a new student-led group at UNB whose mission is to eliminate barriers that may prevent participants of the program from taking advantage of traditional swimming lessons, said Leah Smal, Co-Founder and Co-President of the UNB ISP. The group has partnered with the Fredericton Multicultural Association to reach as many families as possible and hope to help them in their transition to Canada and a different lifestyle.
Smal, along with Eric Meng, came up with the idea of creating the program last winter. It was inspired by years of combined experience of teaching swimming lessons and lifeguarding around the city. They have met families who had just moved to Canada and showed considerable interest in learning how to swim, but they had never lived in an area where lakes and beaches were as accessible as they are in Canada.
The program has had four swimming sessions already. Smal told us they have made significant progress with the lessons, and that it has been amazing to see the relationships built between participants and instructors. The Co-President also excitedly shared with us that the past week, they had a few kids that have swum for the very first time. Other participants are continuing to work on their basic swimming and water safety skills, such as floats and kicking, while others have moved on to more technical work and increasing their endurance in the water.
The swimming lessons are held once a week at the LBR gym swimming pool. UNB ISP accepts any newcomers to the greater Fredericton area with little to no swimming experience, regardless of age. Smal told us this semester they have had kids aged 4-15, but next semester they are hoping to have some adults enrolled in the program. The lessons are free, and you can register through online forms found on UNB ISP’s Facebook page.
The UNB ISP run their lessons with volunteer instructors. The volunteers are required to be UNB or STU students as they are a UNBSU ratified club. The program has a preference for students with previous experience teaching swimming lessons, but there is no official training required, said Smal. They provide training for their instructors at the beginning of each session, and they pair less experienced teachers with more experienced teachers until they become more comfortable with leading a group.
They have two volunteer positions, one of them being an instructor paired with a small group of participants for the duration of the six-week program. The other position would be student interpreters on the pool deck that help instructors and participants communicate effectively if there are any language barriers.
The UNB ISP will have some fundraising events taking place in the next few months. They started to hold samosa sales in partnership with Yummy Samosas and are also planning a Christmas Tree Disposal in January. All the proceeds from the events they host go towards pool rental costs and affiliation fees, among other overhead expenses, said Smal.