It was a moment of joy for parents, coaches and organizers of the month long Swim for Life Gambia project to see that three-quarter of the kids were swimming from one end of the pool to another without any form of support.
Joyous and to some extent amazing because the kids spent on 28hours (14 days of two hours) with the coaches to have perfected swimming styles, breaststrokes and freestyle which they demonstrated on graduation day before an impressive crowd made up of parents, dignitaries and onlookers.
Speaking at the closing ceremony, the executive director of the National Sports Council, Marcel Mendy who deputized for the youth and sports minister hailed the organizers of the ‘Swim for Life Gambia’ project, then urge the swimming association and other sports associations to take cue from this project.
“I am delightfully satisfied with what I have seen here today because we were made to understand that majority of these kids when they were coming here weren’t able to swim. But what they have demonstrated here shows that the ‘Catch Them Young’ is a possibility.”
Marcel however called on sports associations to spend more energy on developing talents at an early age noting that it is wrong to wait until our athletes reach maturity age.
“If we are serious about winning, we must invest in developing talents at an early age. If we are serious about winning gold, we must ensure our athletes have the skills and techniques at a tender age. We all have a responsibility to change the way we go about producing or developing talents if we are serious about winning.”
Marcel however used the occasion to call on the organizers to continue with this project saying that, “If you leave these kids from this stage, they might go back to where they were when they were coming into this project.
For his part the director of quality control and licensing at the Gambia Tourism Board, Mamodou Bah said his office is open for any form of partnership to see that this project continues to produce swimmer, life guards and a population that isn’t afraid of water.
He thanked the parents for entrusting the organizers of the swim for life project with their kids and encourage the organizers to come with more windows that will allow many more children to partake in this life saving venture.
The secretary general of the Gambia Press Union, Saikou Jammeh said he was mesmerized with the skills demonstrated by the children, something he said shows that when people and stakeholders cooperate, they can achieve a lot. He recalled the period when this idea was being conceived revealing that there we a lot of skepticism on the success of the project, “but what is demonstrated here has gone beyond my imagination,” he added.
The president of the Sports Journalists Association of The Gambia and the president of the Red Dolphins Life Guard Association who are both members of the organizing committee called on stakeholders to come forward and support the organizers to have this project continue. They were all unanimous in their call for sponsors to come and partners with organizers. This according to the duo will not only help safe lives but will also nurture talents for the swimming association.
The children went home smiling and a certificate to indicate that they have completed the first phase of swimming that can help them safe themselves in case of eventualities.