Mothers everywhere know how hard it can be to take time for themselves. For Faduma Nur, a mother of six daughters, swimming lessons provided a chance to connect with her daughters but also allowed her to focus on something outside her family responsibilities.  

Jacky and Faduma in the poolFaduma and five of her daughters enjoyed their swimming lessons after joining the Learn to Swim program supported by the University of Waterloo’s Warriors Equity, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) Fund. The fund supports athletics programs at the University and elsewhere and is made possible in part by generous Giving Tuesday donors.  

“For the first time, I was learning, not teaching,” Faduma says of Learn to Swim. 

The Learn to Swim program is hosted by the University of Waterloo Warriors Alliance. The program is designed to promote swimming lessons to people from racialized backgrounds from the Kitchener-Waterloo community who never had the opportunity to learn this important life skill.  

The Alliance is a group of staff and students working together to create positive change for the Black, Indigenous and Racialized (BIR) community and combat racism through awareness-building, education and action. The group created the program in partnership with Warriors Varsity Swimming and Adventure4Change, an organization striving to provide accessible education and learning opportunities while building healthy communities.  

Not only did the program teach Faduma and her daughters to swim, but it also allowed them to learn in women-only sessions where they felt safe and comfortable.  

“My girls love the water but after a certain age we don’t swim with men. I’m grateful for the staff who understood and respected our religion,” Faduma says. 

Jacky Beckford-Henriques is one of the Alliance’s co-founders and Waterloo Swimming’s head coach.  

“The Learn to Swim program is one way we’re pursuing equity for everyone and the smiles on the participants’ faces have made it incredibly rewarding,” she says. 

Much of the funding for the Learn to Swim program was provided by a generous gift from the Astley Family Foundation, made possible through the Kitchener Waterloo Community Foundation (KWCF) Racial Equity Fund. Team Aquatics and the Region of Waterloo Swim Club donated caps and goggles, and Jacky, along with members of Waterloo’s varsity swim team, taught the sessions. 

“Our foundation focuses on projects that help youth build critical life skills, positive attitudes and self-esteem,” says Jennifer Astley-Kinsey, executive director of the Astley Family Foundation, which she founded in 2005 with her parents Bob and Judy Astley and her brother Derek. 

“We know that physical activity can promote mental health, which is a big issue for youth today. Learn to Swim helps build a sense of inclusion and community for young people — and their moms — and we are glad to support the program again this fall.”  

Faduma is looking forward to getting back in the pool. 

“When I started, I didn’t know how to swim. Now I’m almost a professional, thanks to Jacky,” she jokes. 

This year, you can make a difference by donating generously to the Warriors Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Fund to continue supporting programs like Learn to Swim. More than $6,000 was raised for the fund on Giving Tuesday 2022 and our community can support Faduma and others like her during this year’s Giving Tuesday campaign from November 21-28, 2023.