Updated: Dec 24, 2022
Since May 2022, nearly 4,300 Ukrainians have arrived in Australia, many taking refuge in Sydney. Most are women with young children, as well as the elderly.
Many have also never visited the ocean and have limited swimming skills. So a volunteer group, ‘Swim for Ukraine’, was established recently to give the newly-arrived refugees the pleasure of a typical Australian day at the beach, to experience true Aussie culture.
The volunteer group is collaborating with the Ukrainian Council of NSW to host voluntary events and raise funds to help pay for swimming lessons, instructors and surf education. Swim sessions are being hosted by the Bondi Icebergs and UNSW Pool in Kensington along with a first surf education session at Bronte, supported by Surf Life Saving NSW.
On Sunday November 6, a team of Bronte surf lifesavers welcomed a group of over thirty Ukrainian parents and children to feel the joy and healing power of swimming at the beach safely. Lifeguards and lifesavers showed the group what to look out for in the surf from high up on Bronte hill. Then volunteer lifesavers guided the group through a surf education session by answering questions about waves, rips, and yes, sharks.
After lunch, Ukrainian parents, alongside their children, from infants to adolescents, joined volunteers on the sand. Fine conditions and a low tide on the day enabled them to enjoy magical moments on paddle boards and immersed in the Bogey Hole rock pool.
The joy on faces young and old illuminated the unifying nature of feeling safe and supported in the water. One sixteen-year-old Ukrainian boy, who'd been a rower in his homeland, showed his skills supporting some of the youngest in the group to enter the water safely. Our hope is that he and others may go on to become volunteer lifesavers with the support of this caring community.
Members of the Ukraine Council of NSW and the Ukrainian community gave their thanks:
To the most amazing team of volunteers for all the effort you put in to making Sunday such a huge success! The feedback was overwhelmingly positive. …
Beautiful, caring and kind people who made us all smile and cry a little yesterday. I will never forget this day. ...
Thank you from the bottom of my heart and from our Ukrainian community for being so caring and for making everyone feel so welcome, loved and safe! ❤️
About fifty more recent Ukrainian arrivals have expressed interest in becoming involved, so we hope to host another session again soon to build positive connections with the Ukraine community.
If any lifesavers would like to volunteer for future sessions please contact us at the Bronte surf club. Or if you'd like to make a donation that enables the positive ripples to spread further into the community, you can follow this link:
Copyright: story & pictures Ingrid Studholme, an active swimmer and swimming educator.