A learn-to-swim program in Tonga has been credited with boosting the mental wellbeing of young, female participants who came to improve their swimming skills, but left feeling less fearful of both water and life.
Ana Kolokihakaufisi describes herself as a ‘woman enjoying life again’. These days, the 30-year-old finds solace swimming lengths in Nuku’alofa’s ocean pool, but it’s a far cry from how she felt 12 months ago.
In 2016, Ana returned to her native Tonga after a period studying abroad in Japan. It should have been the adventure of a lifetime, but she struggled with mental illness while overseas, and upon returning home.
“When I came back to Tonga, I was having a very difficult time trusting people and being social with others outside of my immediate family,” Ana explains.
As she began searching for activities to help rebuild her life in Tonga, friends suggested she try swimming, via new, weekly one-hour swimming lessons.
The sessions were part of the Let’s Swim program, funded by the Australian Government through the Pacific Sports Partnerships and delivered by Tonga Swimming throughout the country’s main island, Tongatapu. The program promotes swimming as a life skill, and runs special adult sessions for those who missed out on the opportunity to learn to swim as children.
Ana began swimming earlier this year, and says she is surprised at how it has changed her. “It has helped me physically, spiritually and mentally and I’ve become a much more balanced individual,” she says.
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