By Ammar Beilschmidt
The initiative “Swimming for all children” renews the offer to all children from families with little money (holders of the KreisBonusCard) to learn to swim for free. This appeal was made on 22 July 2021 at Tübingen’s open-air swimming pool during the reading “In the water we are all equal”.
Around 100 visitors from a wide range of backgrounds and cultures came together on a balmy summer evening to hear diverse, touching and exciting experiences of swimming. The stories ranged from the burning desire to learn to swim since childhood to stories where swimming was a crucial factor for survival. The experiences read were taken from the book “Meine Schwimmgeschichte” (My Swimming Story), published by Dagmar Müller and the Tübingen initiative “Schwimmen für alle Kinder” (Swimming for All Children), which had invited people to this reading evening in a special atmosphere.
An issue of integration
The visitors were prominent. Minister of State Annette Widmann-Mauz, MdB, Federal Government Commissioner for Migration, Refugees and Integration, said about the topic of the reading evening: “We are all the same in the water. None of us was born a swimmer. We all had to learn first, whether boy or girl, young or old”.
But why is swimming an issue of integration? Widmann-Mauz to tünews: “Unlike in Germany, learning to swim is not part of the culture in many countries. That’s why for many people learning to swim means arriving here with us, keeping afloat in a new environment, perhaps also in a new country, not sinking, getting rid of the fear of the unknown. Swimming is a survival skill and very important experience for one’s own development and self-confidence, and that is very important for integration.”
For Dr Dorothea Kliche-Behnke, member of the Baden-Württemberg state parliament for the SPD, “access to swimming lessons means access to education. And this must be open to all, regardless of social and cultural background.”
Organiser Dagmar Müller referred to another aspect of the integration topic, namely that swimming has a social function: “We have observed that the friendships among different cultures remain even after the swimming courses that we offer with our initiative “Swimming for all children””.
Dietmar Rogg, President of the German Swimming Pool and Wellness Association, also cited this as a reason for his support of the initiative: “Swimming brings different people together and that helps in personal and social development.”
But where did the idea for the Courage-Making Book, which was read aloud, come from?
“The book is meant to convey the emotional successes of the swimming children with authentic stories and to strengthen their courage to act on their own. It tells the stories of swimming children who have become strong children. Supplemented by swimming stories from people in public life, the book is a wake-up call to everyone that the swimming safety of our children is a task for society as a whole,” said Müller. She added: “The “Swimming for All Children” team makes it possible for children and young people from families with little money to receive free swimming lessons until they are swimming safely. This is tested with the German Swimming Badge Bronze. The swimming training can last up to two years, the important thing is to attend lessons regularly.
The project “Swimming for all children” started in 2015 as a voluntary initiative in cooperation with the Round Table Child Poverty of the University City of Tübingen, which is organised in the support association Lokales Bündnis für Familie Tübingen e.V.. The aim of the initiative is to offer as many children and young people as possible from families with little money as well as from refugee families the chance to learn how to swim free of charge. The team supports the participants individually from non-swimmer to swimming confidence, which is tested with the completion of the German Swimming Badge Bronze. The voluntary, multinational team attaches great importance to quality in swimming education. “Learning to swim ensures survival,” says Dagmar Müller and adds: “What we as a team have experienced with many children is the power of learning together, the energy gained from personal successes in learning to swim, and the happiness that each and every one of us feels when an insecure child becomes a confident child who proudly tells of his or her own achievement.”
Das Freibad in Tübingen. Foto: tünews INTERNATIONAL / Mostafa Elyasian.