December 23, 2016 Seamus Pettigrew

Survival Swimming Into The Holidays

Hey EverybodyFirsts thing first I want to wish every one of you reading this a happy holiday. Swimdo would not exist if not for the support we receive from all of you. Seriously, we are so grateful for everyone who is reading this around the world and supporting our dream of making Indonesia a safer place for children.

All Smiles

Last night we were hit by the biggest monsoon that I have seen in my five years here in Keramas. The rain was coming in sideways; trees were falling down and the road in front of our house turned into a river, half a meter deep. When a storm like this hits, you stop what you are doing and immediately find shelter; whether it’s a roadside warong (shop) or refuge in a friendly local’s house. You are stuck wherever you might happen to find yourself.  Even one second exposed and you are completely soaked.  If you are bold enough to try and ride your motor bike home, you are assaulted by rain drops that hit your skin like a million tiny daggers.   So last night the Swimdo team huddled into the room with the least leaky ceiling and sat for hours hungry, tired and defeated after hopelessly trying to divert the water from entering our rooms and soaking our clothing and beds.Jaen Idup Di Bali (Life is good in bali)In other news we are excited to announce the arrival of a new volunteer in the Swimdo house. Jon Reid is an avid waterman who works for the Queen at the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, braving the frigid angry waters off the coast of England to save lives. He is not our fastest swimmer, but he is definitely the strongest swimmer we have ever had volunteer for Swimdo. In a hopeless situation with impossible water, this is the guy you want coming to save you. Jon was trained in England and France and brings a valuable perspective that complements our training from Australia and the USA.

New Volunteers Jon and Dylan

It has been two weeks since we first walked in SD 5 (elementary school) in Keramas to meet our first students coming directly from the Indonesian school system. After exchanging formalities with the headmaster we were led into a small classroom to meet the kids.  Walking into that classroom was a surreal experience, one that I have no doubt I will experience time and time again, but I will never forget that first time. The classroom is a simple, rows of wooden desks, a chalk board and a map of the world.  Other than the fact that it is about 100 degrees, it is not so different to the classroom where I was educated when I was ten years old. What is so noticeably different is that as I walk into the classroom with seats for thirty students, sixty children, aged 8-11 years old, sit still at desks or on the floor completely silent. I break the ice by putting my hands together in front of my heart and saying “Om swastyastu” (God be with you). Sixty children all at once burst out in response “OM SWASTYASTU!”We see the same enthusiasm for our swimming lessons.  Perhaps our biggest problem has been that our two o’clock class will show up an hour early, and not leave until six. Our 4 o’clock class will show up at two. I like to think of this as one of those good problems.Yesterday I had a class of nine-year-old girls who were very new to swimming and spoke no English.  Our Bahasa Indonesia Is improving very fast, but teaching young novices who can barely touch the bottom of the pool in a language that we speak poorly is a challenge.  Our advanced students Gita, Dian, Indah and Ayu, after finishing their lesson, stepped in and took over.  They brought so much enthusiasm to teaching and were so proud to share the skills they had recently acquired.We have always wanted our students to one day become teachers.  One year since our first lesson, students who started as dry heads are now able to teach.  This is the future of Swimdo!

Gita demonstrating how to breath

This is great because we have been overwhelmed by the work load.  Currently we are in the process of becoming a registered non-profit in both Indonesia and the USA. This means weekly meetings with lawyers and tons of paper work. The good news is that we should be completely legitimate in both countries by February. The bad news is that the Indonesian legal process has sent us on a wild goose chase hunting down everything from past electricity bills to the decade old receipt from the land purchase of our headquarters.  To make things even more confusing our lawyer here speaks no English.Every week we have meetings with community leaders from all around Keramas. We have hired four local staff and have been communicating with future volunteers from all around the world. Even tasks that we take for granted such as responsibly disposing of our garbage has proven to be a challenge. We have to physically drive all of our waste into the village and look for the rubbish truck, which could be in about ten different place, or perhaps be nowhere at all in which case we bring our garbage back home to try again another day. I’m just happy that Keramas has a rubbish truck.  Last year this did not exist.  There is hope for our oceans.Swimdo Kalimantan

Ransel Buku

Perhaps the most exciting use of our time has been arranging for Swimdo to open up a new facility this February. We have partnered up with an amazing local run non-profit in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo). Ransel Buku is a library and community center in a small fishing village of eight hundred people near the city of Palangkaraya.  Katimpun is a village built on stilts over the river. The village has no plumbing, no wifi, no cell reception and no cappuccinos.What this village does have is about one hundred children who go to sleep every night with a river running about a meter underneath their pillows.  Most children here learn how to swim, but drowning is still common.  In a recent conversation I had with Aini, the founder of Ransel Buku, she explained to me the many challenges she has faced opening the library. One story that stuck with me in particular was how earlier in the year most of the books in the library were destroyed by a flood. The river rose about two meters and everything was lost. The library has been built on higher stilts than any other building in the village, this means the water that crept up the book shelves reached even higher levels in the villager’s homes.  What shocked me most was unlike the monsoon flood I described at the beginning of this post, this particular flood lasted for a month! One whole month of water coming thru the floorboards! One month where the only way to get in our out of the village was by boat! One month where it was dangerous to leave your house to visit your neighbor! One month where if you were thirsty or hungry or sick you have to swim or hire a boat!This absolutely blew my mind and I knew that Swimdo had to pay a visit to this community.  Aini is a truly remarkable human being who has worked so hard throughout her life so that she can give back to her native island of Kalimantan. She plans to open five more libraries in five other small river side villages. She is a great friend and Swimdo plans to support her with her future projects. She is having a fundraiser right now you can visit it here. Ransel BukuThe Christmas gift that we are giving to all of you is graduating our first class of students from SD 5. In the last two weeks we have hammered our students with survival swimming instruction.  They have progressed incredibly, laughing and screaming the whole way.  Our last day of class we teach exclusively water rescue techniques to the kids catered specifically to their swimming ability.  Every two weeks we will be sending fifty kids back into the village who know how to swim, and have been trained in rescue techniques.

Top of his Class!

It will be sad to say farewell to these kids but Keramas has seven elementary schools and we have kids lining up for swim instruction faster than we can write their name down. ThanksHappy HolidaysSelamat Tahun Baru! (Happy new year) -Seamus