From left: Amanda, Charlie and Jim
Amanda, a keen swimmer and support worker at a St Mungo’s hostel decided to help set up a swimming club for residents. We spoke to the group about the benefits of swimming and how it has helped them in their recovery from homelessness.
How did the swimming group start?
Amanda: I announced in our project newsletter that I was swimming the English Channel as part of a relay team for ASPIRE. This led to a lot of conversations with clients about the challenge and how we should go swimming as a group.
Charlie: Amanda thought it would be a good way of bringing our community together.
Stella: It was also a good way for us to support Amanda with her training.
How was the first session at Tooting Lido?
Jim: It was good to get out.
Charlie: It reminded me of when I was younger. When I was growing up I grew very close to my neighbour Marina, who got me into swimming.
She wanted me to have fun and enjoy water. Swimming helped me come out of my shell. We used to go with her son Carl, it was a memorable time, rich with love.
Amanda: We had a lot of fun. Swimming is very freeing and it was great for people who hadn’t been in such a long time. The swimmers here all have a history of homelessness, with varying levels of ability and confidence in the water.
The knock on effects were massive. One client used to be an accomplished swimmer but had lost her confidence. However, when we got to the pool she rediscovered her love of swimming and even demonstrated the butterfly stroke for us!
Charlie: She was mesmerising and looked like she was in complete bliss.
How would you persuade other clients to get involved in the swimming group?
Charlie: I was in a dark place when I first lived in this hostel. However, after swimming we all talked about what a positive experience it had been.
I would just encourage other clients to try it. For a lot of residents here, getting them out of their room is one step. The second is trying to get them to do something constructive with their time. Amanda gave us an opportunity and with a little bit of encouragement I decided to do it.
Amanda: We wanted to ensure that all the potential barriers were reduced before we got to the pool. We organised a taxi to pick us up and made sure everyone had the right swimwear.
Are you planning another visit?
Amanda: We intend to continue this regularly once schools are back.
However, money is a big barrier for us. We get a certain amount for welfare but this often doesn’t cover activities such as swimming. We rely a lot on donations from local businesses.
Our client swimming group is taking part in our Make A Splash winter swimming campaign this December. We are challenging our supporters to brave the open water this winter and raise £50 for St Mungo’s. Your donations help us offer more activities for our clients that help build confidence, gain new skills and improve mental health.