Our mission

SWAM Kitchener-Waterloo (formerly Making Waves Kitchener-Waterloo) is a not-for profit student initiative founded as a registered chapter of SWAM Canada in 2011. Our mission is to provide affordable and accessible one-on-one pool time to children with special needs. For more information about our parent organization, as well as about the history of the SWAMmovement, please visit SWAM Canada.

This chapter was previously known as Making Waves Kitchener-Waterloo. In April 2016, the entire "Making Waves" organization transitioned to a new name: "SwimAbility."

Why we exist

The need for our volunteer-based service is evident. A 2002 study by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention found that drowning is still the second-leading cause of injury-related death in children, despite a significant increase in general swimming proficiency in North America. Significantly, a separate study found that disabled children are a further ten times likelier to suffer from a submersion injury than the general population (Injury Prevention, 2001).

Whereas a large portion of the population has been exposed to water safety education through relatively affordable, group swimming lessons, the format in which these services are provided is not suited to special needs children. Indeed, participants in our program typically have shorter attention spans, require more personalized supervision and need individually adapted teaching methods to ensure their success.

Moreover, according to the Canadian Participation and Activity Limitations Survey, 26% of children with special needs live in families below the low-income cut-off. Accordingly, many parents of children with special needs are faced with the costly prospect of enrolling their children in private lessons which they cannot afford. For reference, whereas a set of nine group lessons at a local, municipal pool costs $95, a set of nine private lessons at the same municipal pool costs $360... almost four times as much.

Put together, these facts paint a concerning picture: the slice of the population for which water safety instruction seems to be the most relevant is exactly the portion of the population most marginalized by the structure of swimming lessons currently on offer.

Our approach

SWAM builds on the institutional strengths and successes of existing swimming lesson organizations. We are able to be more effective in injury prevention by providing one-on-one pool time specifically targeted and adapted to those children at highest risk of drowning in our society. We recruit our volunteers from the abundance of university-aged, qualified swimmers and work with our community partners to properly train, educate and prepare them for the rigours of working with special-needs children. We rent out pool space once a week, batch pool time together and assign one volunteer to each child. By using innovative techniques to dramatically cut our operating expenses, as well as by actively fundraising, we are able to offer private pool time at a rate affordable even by those living under the poverty line.

Our Pool Time Structure

Each one-on-one session runs for thirty minutes, on Sundays from 2:00-2:30 & 2:30-3 PM. The cost per child is $35 per season. A season is about 8-10 lessons. This charge is used to offset a portion of the pool rental costs and to remunerate the lifeguard on duty. All instructors' time is provided on a voluntary basis.

Fully certified lifeguards, external to our program, are always on duty during classes.

SWAMclasses are held at the Wilfrid Laurier University Pool, located at 75 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario. We hold two seasons of lessons per year: our fall season of lessons runs from September – December while our winter session runs from January – April. We do not offer sessions during the summer.

How to register your child

You can register here!

Need more information?

How you can help

If you are someone who can commit to to giving a small amount of your time on a weekly basis, please click here for more information!

If you're interested in helping by making a donation or by becoming a SWAMsponsor, please contact us.