WATCH: Swimming gives township kids new hope

Lusindiso Macikiciki dives fearlessly into the pool as he races to take first place in a race against his mates.

The race is at Port Elizabeth’s Zwide swimming pool, where about 20 children are being taught to swim.

Macikiciki, 12, is one of more than 100 children receiving free swimming lessons from concerned citizen and swimming coach Yonwaba Sipeliti, 28.

He has been teaching children to swim since 2013 to reduce the high levels of drownings and to “dispel the myth that black children can’t swim”.

The number of pupils joining Sipeliti’s coaching clinics grows each year.

Sipeliti, also a swimming coordinator at the Nelson Mandela Bay Aquatics Club, said it brought him joy to make such a big difference in communities where children lacked access to swimming pools and instructors.

“These children come from poor communities – they don’t have much – but being able to teach them such an important skill makes me happy,” Sipeliti said.

“They are now all professional swimmers, so they can go and teach their extended family this same skill.

“We are not just changing one life, we are imparting a skill that will help families in most communities.”

Sipeliti, who learnt to swim in 1999, said he would never forget how important he felt after achieving this.

He said he wanted the children in his club to be proud of themselves, despite the challenges they face.

“I have eager pupils who want to be the best at swimming [but] at times we need donations of swimming gear,” Sipeliti said

“Sometimes pools are closed, but we fight through it.

“All the children I teach can enter credible swimming competitions – that’s how good they are.”

Asemahle Ndwalaza, 12, of Zamukhanya Primary School, said most youngsters in the township were exposed to violence and crime.

She said swimming helped her get away from these social ills.

“We live in areas that have drugs and alcohol – it’s something we see every day and it’s not good for us,” Ndwalaza said.

“But since I joined the club I am not worried about these bad things – I have a new home and a group of people who want me to succeed.”

Lithule Monde, 16, of Loyiso High School, said entering swimming competitions made him feel he had a purpose in life.

He said his goal was to win a gold medal and show other children they could achieve anything they put their mind to.

“I am good at this sport. I want to go to the Olympics,” Monde said.

Nzondelelo High School pupil Sinokuhle Nyathi, 16, said: “We have the best swimming instructor. “He understands our backgrounds. “He has been patient with all of us and now everyone in the club can swim long distances.”

Sipeliti said his club would be taking part in the SPAR River Mile in Colchester on Sunday.

His pupils are eager to set new records.

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