AWARA’s ‘Swim Sundays’ for eco-conservation

These camps are thoughtfully crafted by child psychologists and educators, with swimming serving as both the central theme and catalyst for change.
Children dive and splash in the water, while advanced swimmers prepare to cross the river, accompanied by lifeguards proficient in basic life-saving skills who retrieve plastic debris from the water.
Children dive and splash in the water, while advanced swimmers prepare to cross the river, accompanied by lifeguards proficient in basic life-saving skills who retrieve plastic debris from the water.

VIJAYAWADA: Amid the scorching summer, numerous families actively gather on the Krisha riverbed in Vijayawada to participate in the weekly ‘Swim Sunday Camp’ programme. Organised by the NGO AWARA Swim and Rescue Academy since 2014, this camp is committed to nature conservation.

What began as a humble cleanup initiative has blossomed into a transformative experience aimed at nurturing eco-awareness among future generations.

These camps are thoughtfully crafted by child psychologists and educators, with swimming serving as both the central theme and catalyst for change. Each session starts with adults leading the cleanup of litter, while children partake in warm-up runs, culminating in a waterfront circle chain.

From yoga sessions to tree pose competitions and enlightening talks by esteemed guests, the camp offers a diverse array of activities designed to foster physical fitness, mental activity, and environmental stewardship. Throughout the day, children showcase their talents through storytelling, poetry recitals, and martial arts demonstrations.

Environmentalist and founder of AWARA, Prof Ajay Katragadda, emphasised that safety remains paramount, with stringent supervision and adherence to safety protocols overseen by experienced coaches and lifeguards. Ajay also mentioned that beyond water activities, the camp extends its impact through community gardening initiatives and environmental conservation projects.

Swim coach Sakuntala Devi A, who specialises in women and children swim training, provides safety instructions. Coaching assistant Soujanya Velineni and lifeguard Pankaj Kumar Gaya hand out flotation devices. “Thanks to strict supervision and safety standards, we have never had any issues during our Swim Sundays,” she said.

Children dive and splash in the water, while advanced swimmers prepare to cross the river, accompanied by lifeguards proficient in basic life-saving skills who retrieve plastic debris from the water. The final phase includes water games in shallow areas, overseen by senior swimmers Indirani and Gowri Devi Basava. “Many kids from our school have won prizes in various sports thanks to Sunday swimming practices,” noted Sharone, a teacher from Aravinda Schools in Kunchanapalli of Guntur district.

“AWARA swimmers and runners, assisted by children, have created two mini-parks along the riverbank,” said Soujanya Velineni, AWARA Community Gardening coordinator. The children prepare to depart, enjoying organic ragi malt drinks prepared by Aravinda School staff. Participation in these camps is free, with a token fee for safety gear and supervision. Many individuals who started as novice swimmers years ago, either as children themselves or accompanied by their parents or grandparents, have since learned to swim proficiently. Some have even progressed to compete at the state and national levels, with a few achieving success in master competitions.

“Recently, winners and other participants of the 2024 Periyar River race in Kochi celebrated by planting several saplings along the riverbank alongside camp children, aiming to inspire future generations,” noted Ajay. Additionally, numerous pain and rehab patients, trained by Dr Ajay, can be regularly spotted swimming in the river every Wednesday at the Prakasam Barrage.

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