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200 Youths Benefit From KATSWIM Programme in 2015

200 children between the ages of 4 to 17 years in the BVI went through the 2015 Kids And The Sea Swim (KATSWIM) session which drew to a close on November 14.

The weekly swimming classes were held every Saturday across two terms at the swimming pool at Nanny Cay.

The first term took place May 2 – June 20 and the second term ran from September 5 – November 14 when certificates were awarded to the graduates of the different classes.

Some 2015 KATSWIM graduates

The termly sessions covered all swimming standards, starting with instructions on basic water survival skills and continuing through Level 7. Children were assigned to groups based on their swimming ability and were taught by volunteers who are trained as Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) qualified instructors through the BVI Swimming Foundation.

Among other water skills, Level 7 graduates are able to swim 25 meters using back stroke, front crawl, breast stroke and butterfly as well as swim 50 meters using one stroke and 100 meters using a minimum of three different strokes.

“Every term we register children with different degrees of swimming experience from none to those that have mastered basic swim strokes,” said Barbara Gerker, founding volunteer of KATS. “We introduce higher levels of skills instruction once we have a group that is ready to move up. This year we had a much faster advancement rate with the children due to the ASA training the instructors took and we were excited to start Level 7 for the 7 students who successfully completed Level 6.”

The KATS Programme has relied on donations and volunteers to provide basic sea skills -including swimming, sailing, and scuba programmes – to the children of the BVI’s since its inception in 1990. Nanny Cay has been a major facilitator of the programme since 2005, accommodating KATSWIM at our swimming pool on Saturday mornings.

“Nanny Cay is pleased to have supported the KATSWIM programme over the years,” said Miles Sutherland Pilch, General Manager, Nanny Cay Resort & Marina. “It has been rewarding to be part of a successful programme which has benefitted so many children and young adults.”

KATSWIM taking place in Nanny Cay pool

KATSWIM is run annually and in 2015, the BVIOC committed $30,000 for two years to bring the KATSWIM programme back to the community after a brief hiatus.

“The BVIOC applied for a Swim for Life grant from Olympic Solidarity and, earlier this year, partnered with KATSWIM to keep the programme going,” said Ephraim Penn, President BVIOC. “Not only is basic water safety a key requirement when living on an island, but the different swimming levels make this a good feeder programme for developing a national swim team.”

The funds are used to purchase swim aids and training equipment and also to provide a stipend for instructors.

Students are charged a basic fee to cover the administrative costs involved in running the programme. 50 of the 200 students who registered for the 2015 programme were awarded CIBC FirstCaribbean swimming scholarships based on financial needs.

“CIBC FirstCaribbean was keen to provide support which would enable youngsters in the BVI to learn how to swim,” said Malcolm Whetnall, Country Manager for CIBC FirstCaribbean. “We had previously supported KATSAIL and are pleased to have been involved with the 2015 KATSWIM programme to open the opportunity for the children in our community who otherwise might not have been able to take part in this critical training.”

The roster of volunteers included KATS Board member, Barbara Gerker, parents and two students from Cedar School who consistently helped with registration and as assistant instructors.

For more information on the 2016 KATSWIM programme, instructor training, or volunteering, contact Barbara Gerker by email at Barbara@partsandpower.com or by phone on 494-2830.

KATS was started in St Thomas following the tragic death of three boy scouts who drowned in a small boat accident off an outlying Virgin Islands cay while on a camping expedition. Not only did the boys lack the necessary sea skills to handle a boating emergency, but they also were unable to swim to safety on the nearby shoreline. For more information on the KATS programmes visit www.katsbvi.com.

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