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All aboard at French Bay Schools' Waterwise programme

Whether it’s the coast, lakes or rivers, having fun in the water is a massive part of Kiwis' lives. That’s why teaching our kids water safety is so crucial.

French Bay Schools Waterwise Inc is a member of the NZ Schools Waterwise Incorporated Society. And every year, around 250 kids in Years 5 and 6 at Titirangi and Woodlands Park Primary Schools participate in the French Bay Waterwise programme. The programme involves exploring water safety and sailing skills in the classroom before putting them into practice on the water. Thanks to the French Bay Yacht Club, participants get to try out their new-found skills in Optimist sailing dinghies.

Chairperson Alan Gordon explains that the French Bay Schools Waterwise programme aims to ‘develop in the children self-confidence, water safety, swimming, fitness and yachting skills.’ He stresses that it's not about learning to sail. It's more about developing confidence in and around the marine environment.

The children gain valuable experience in adopting safe practices around the water. But even more importantly, they have a whole lot of fun as Leo, a student at Titirangi Primary School, confirms: ‘I love capsizing the boat, especially on a hot day because you get totally wet and it cools you down. But it was really hard to get back in the boat!’

Alan advises that French Bay Schools Waterwise Inc is a non-profit, volunteer-led organisation. Funding is always in short supply. However, $5,000 from the Your West Support Fund has gone towards new buoyancy aids to improve the children’s safety.

‘Buoyancy aids have a limited life span and need to be replaced regularly,’ Alan explains. He adds that thanks to the Your West Support Fund, several old buoyancy aids have been retired and replaced with state-of-the-art new ones.

After years of disruption to the programme due to the pandemic and Cyclone Gabrielle, Alan and the team can’t wait to get back on the water this summer.

‘The new buoyancy aids mean we can continue to offer this brilliant programme to local schools,’ declares Alan.

Check out the Waterwise website for more information.