MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Summer time is when swimming is at its height, but on average, 10 people drown every day in the U.S.

And according to the YMCA, children of color are three times more likely to drown. You may remember just a few weeks ago, 14-year-old Taw Meh died on a canoe trip on the St. Croix River. She was not able to swim.

And in May, 7-year-old Sher Kpor drowned after trying to grab a flip-flop from an undrained pool in St. Paul.

A program started in the Twin Cities is working hard to teach water safety to people of color. And as of this year, it’s going national.

And as we found out, it’s not focused on teaching swimming. It may look like a pretty standard Sunday scene, 7-year-old Brandon Margara and his twin sister just splashing around.

But to his mom, this scene is quite precious.

A YMCA program gave a free water safety lesson right in his New Brighton apartment complex. The family immigrated from Kenya two years ago. His mom says it’s a gift of peace of mind.

“Brandon now, he has improved so far, and I’m so much happy because he knows how to swim,” Rachel Margara said.

Even though Brandon is now an all-out swimmer, the program isn’t about lapping the pool.

“Survival skills, that’s critical. Especially in Minnesota, where we have 10,000 lakes, pool access, a lot of brown water,” Cassie Rood said.

Rood helps run the free traveling program. She says instead of a standard swim lesson, they teach kids how to get out of the water if they fall in. Like push-off techniques from the bottom and basic floating.

“We recognize we need to not just teach kids to swim but to be safe around the water,” Rood said.

About 80 percent of the kids they’ve taught are kids of color.

“We’ve been looking within the African American community, Hmong community and Somali community,” she said.

And that’s just to name a few. The program has been so successful it’s now being taught at YMCA’s all around the country. We’ll let results speak for themselves.

The Twin Cities YMCA says they want to help anyone of any age learn to be comfortable in the water. Even if you can’t pay, they say they have scholarships along with the help of Abbey’s Hope.

Susan-Elizabeth Littlefield

Comments