The Armada Abroad Program (AAP), a new cultural exchange program founded in Albany, CA, will take 17 teenage swimmers from Berkeley, Albany, and El Cerrito high schools to the Soweto Township outside Johannesburg, South Africa. They will provide in-water, small group swimming instruction to more than one hundred Kliptown Youth Program (KYP) scholars in the summer of 2021. The fatal drowning rate in South Africa is approximately three per 100,000 people—over three times the drowning rate in the United States—with most victims under the age of 14. AAP youth instructors aim to combat this disparity by teaching KYP participants the basics of water safety, rudimentary and refinement of strokes, and competitive techniques for advanced swimmers. Coaches from Albany Armada Aquatics will also train KYP instructors on how to build a foundation for a sustainable swim school. While in Soweto, the KYP scholars will then teach Armada swimmers a range of skills in which they are experts, including local music and dance.
In an effort to deepen and reinforce the cultural connection between KYP and AAP individuals, all Armada swimmers have the chance to partner with a KYP scholar and exchange monthly emails, offering the opportunity to make a friend for life. While in South Africa, participants will work alongside their hosts on several community development projects including gardening, preparing meals for students, installing a mural, and assisting with building repairs and maintenance.
The AAP participants, all high school-aged, are current competitive swimmers who have been organizing a variety of fundraisers to support their trip. In addition to fundraising, they are training to obtain certifications in lifeguarding and swim instruction to ensure lesson safety and quality. They have also been studying South African history and culture under the tutelage of Dr. Trevor Getz, a professor of African History at San Francisco State.
Although their journey will conclude in Kliptown, AAP is also planning to make an impact in its home turf: the Bay Area. AAP staff have been working with officials in the Richmond and Oakland school districts, and AAP hopes to provide free lessons to students from these local communities.
AAP is being supported by a generous financial gift from the Pacific Swimming (USA Swimming) Diversity and Inclusion Committee. In addition, we have received gifts of gear and equipment from both Arena Swimwear and Nike Swim!
We have already raised approximately $90,000 of our $120,000 goal. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, our fundraising plans have had to be postponed and we are looking for additional assistance from our extended network of family, friends and swimmers to help us in the last push to reach our goal. Please give today!
For more information on AAP fundraising efforts and how to support AAP, visit https://armadaabroad.org/.