I AM WATER & Mamoli Mission Orphanage

The children of Mamoli Mission live along one of the most beautiful and pristine coastlines in the world and yet their big blue salty backyard remains unexplored because most of them cannot swim... That was soon about to change!

I AM WATER instructor Beth shares her account of a week of first time swimmers, snorkelling with dogs and shrieking boat rides!

In February, I AM WATER had the great privilege of teaching 27 children from the Mamoli Mission orphanage in Southern Mozambique to swim and to snorkel.

The first step was to take them to a swimming pool to introduce them to basic swimming techniques and get them used to wearing a mask and breathing through a snorkel in a controlled environment. Phaphalati Hotel in Mamoli very kindly let us use their massive pool which was perfect for allowing the kids to gain confidence in the water before their first swim in the ocean. We started with some stretches and then practiced kicking and breathing through snorkels before we got into the water. A lot of the kids initially think that they need to stop breathing completely when they have a snorkel in their mouth so it’s great to get them used to the idea that they can breathe through the snorkel before they give it a try in the water!

The kids from Mamoli Mission speak Portuguese and also Shangaan, so the language barrier made it a bit more challenging for me, but thankfully ocean conservationist Andy Coetzee was volunteering his time to assist with teaching the kids and he was also translating so that the kids could (mostly!) understand me. It was really interesting to see how some of the kids couldn’t wait to get into the water while others were extremely nervous and anxious about getting in, but by the end of the session it was almost impossible to get all of them out of the water! As with all kids, once the teaching and learning was done, they couldn’t wait to play and try out their new skills for themselves. I couldn’t believe the improvement from when they started to the end of the session. Kids learn quickly when they are having fun!

After the pool sessions, the Mamoli Mission kids were ready for Step 2… I AM WATER arranged for them to try out their new swimming and snorkelling skills in the ocean. We picked them up and drove them to Ponta do Ouro where we were overwhelmed by the turnout of volunteers who were there to help with taking the kids snorkelling. 

I AM WATER Founder and CEO, Hanli Prinsloo was running a Freediving/Yoga (and swimming with the dolphins!) retreat at the same time as I was running the Outreach Programme, and every single client on the retreat arrived to assist with the kids! We were also fortunate to have Dudu and Domingo volunteer their time from the Dolphin Centre as well as Michelle from the Love Café and her two kids to help out.

The bay in Ponta is the perfect place for the kids to have their first ocean experience because it’s relatively sheltered and shallow. It was high tide so the waves made it even more exciting for the kids. There were also huge shoals of different species of fish all around the children and it was the first time that they had seen fish underwater.

One of the highlights was definitely when a Labrador arrived to join in the fun and a few of the confident and competent swimmers decided to ditch their grown ups and rather swim around with the dog! When I asked Neetu, one of the boys from the orphanage, what he liked most he said with a huge smile, “My best part was seeing a dog swimming trying to catch fish, but the fish were too clever and fast!”.

On the last day of our time with the Mamoli Mission kids, Andy and Fanie Lategan from the Ponto Malongane Dive Centre arranged for the children to go on their first ever boat launch through the waves and surf and for a quick spin around backline. I’ve never heard shouts and screams and laughs as I heard then and every single one of the kids was beaming and couldn’t stop talking about it. “I didn’t know boats could go so fast and I saw a real turtle!” Dennis laughed as he told me after the launch.

I AM WATER can’t wait to go back to Mozambique to continue our work with the Mamoli Mission. Our goal is to try and ensure that all of the kids are all confident swimmers and also that they have more opportunities to spend time exploring and learning about the ocean. Thank you to Nic Vaughan-Jones and Simao Mucache from the Mamoli Mission for the incredible work that you do taking care of all of the children. You can follow them on facebook and see for yourself what amazing work is being done!

We will soon be posting a video about snorkelling with these amazing kids… watch this space!

A huge thank you again to all of the volunteers – Nina, Maria, Angela, Johan, Tiago and Lydia, we love you, and Andy for being a translator, teacher, cameraman, driver and all round organisational/ logistical superstar and to Roché, Simao’s son, for assisting us with the pool sessions and for helping to translate and make things happen. Another huge thank you to Phaphalati for letting us use your pool, which made it possible for us to teach the kids safely. And thank you to Fanie for providing the kids with an incredible boat ride they would never have had the opportunity to experience! Also, to Jill and Billy Platt for pointing us in the right direction and saving the day!

We can’t wait to be back in Mozambique soon and continue where we left off!


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