Simon Holliday has lived in HK for two years and has spent a lot of that time swimming in the surprisingly beautiful waters around Hong Kong. He is a Channel swimmer and became the second person to swim from HK to Macau in 2014. Last year he co-founded Splash – a swim school for Foreign Domestic Workers and under-privileged young people in Hong Kong. A Lotus Rises spoke to Simon and Naive, a recent Splash! graduate to find out more about this fantastic initiative that is empowering women both in and out of the water.
What is Splash?
Splash conducts free learn-to-swim and water safety courses for targeted communities who may not have access or financial resources for swim lessons.
Taught by experienced coaches in a supportive group setting, Splash swimmers learn an important life skill while developing confidence and well-being both in and out of the water. We are a bunch of volunteers – some with a coaching background some without – who wanted to share the sport we love.
Why did you found Splash?
Foreign Domestic Workers play a pivotal but under-appreciated role in Hong Kong society. They are required to live with their employers in invariably tiny living quarters. They have no legal rights in Hong Kong. Should they lose their job, they are required to leave Hong Kong within two weeks. They make a huge sacrifice to work in Hong Kong, leaving children, extended family and friends behind in The Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia.
They work six days a week and on their ONE day off many congregate in the central business district and other open areas sitting on pieces of cardboard, playing cards, sharing food and catching up with friends. We felt some of these women would like the opportunity to use this time to learn a life skill. Swimming has been such an important part of my life and we wanted to share our love of the water with others. It is quite a selfish activity really as we (the coaches) seem to get at least as much enjoyment from the sessions as the participants!
What impact does it have?
Last year we helped nearly 200 Foreign Domestic Workers to learn to swim. We have also seen some of our swimmers go on to compete in open water competitions. These were women who had just learned to swim competing against people who had swam all their lives. They fail and succeed with a smile on their faces and are always willing to give it a try.
But swimming is really just the vehicle. We have seen participants grow in confidence out of the water. Friendships develop. And more people are joining a small but growing open water community.
What are your hopes for the future?
This year, we hope to help nearly 700 Foreign Domestic Workers learn to swim. We are also developing programmes for under-privileged young people.
Longer term, we hope to continue to build swimming communities in parts of Hong Kong and other countries in Asia.
Congratulations to the Splash Winter 2016 graduates!
Naive Gascon, a recent Splash! graduate also shares her experience. Naive joined Splash as a beginner swimmer and now regularly enjoys 4km swims in open water.
Why did you participate in Splash?
I participated in Splash because i really wanted to learn how to swim. When I got here in Hong Kong, I looked for opportunities to grow, learn things and have fun on my day off. Before, I participated in free learning stuff offered from different organization such as Yoga, Cooking, etc. and then Splash came. Swimming just captured my heart!
What did you gain from participating in Splash?
Friends, happiness, fun. It has boosted my self esteem and given a sense of “belongingness”, which I struggled with when I first got here. I also learnt a lot from people I met, which is pretty awesome. The short time since learning learned how to swim has shaped me not just physically, but also as a human being. There is so much love in Splash.
How can people support Splash?
We need more volunteer coaches, more pairs of goggles and more money to offer more free learn to swim programmes. Details of lessons, coaching opportunities and how to make a donation can be found here .