Helping island youth to take to the water
On Monday 2nd August, a 40 foot container with donations from the UK sporting community heads out across the oceans to the Maldives. The donations come from a range of sources from companies like British Airways, who have part funded a rowing boat, through to small individual gifts of spanners and tape measures. The collections of boats, lifejackets and tools will provide the young people in the Maldives with the equipment needed set up their own water sports clubs.
Di Ellis, British Rowing Chairman, said “British Rowing has been very pleased to be involved and to support this development of rowing for the young people of the Maldives. This will ensure that they regain their heritage while enjoying our sport, and it will also help to increase the growing number of nations competing at world level.”
The ambition grew out of Olympic Rower Guin Batten’s crossing of the notoriously dangerous Zero Degree Channel in March. Guin was welcomed by groups of local women who showed her the traditional rowing cultures of the past and their love of modern competitive sport. Guin says “the reaction was amazing and the fit was so natural”.
Inspired by the crossing the young school children from Thinadhoo have been learning to swim, row and canoe. James Cowley, a volunteer coach, has had to spend much of his time teaching the young people to swim and be safe in the water. One of his favourite moments was taking a group of 14 year-old girls out to their local reef and seeing the fish and coral for the first times in their lives. “Watching the sense of accomplishment and wonder in their faces, makes all the hard work so rewarding.”
Getting appropriate equipment out to the Maldives has been a real challenge for the project. James says; “it is amazing how much the young people have learnt using only Guin’s rowing boat, a canoe, and the goggles sent out last month.
“To get the two rowing 4’s and the two canoes from Palm will be so exciting, but we still need more help. At the moment I am coaching from a kayak and as the children go faster and further, we will need a motor boat to coach and give the right safety cover.”
The island elders are getting behind the project and have set-up the Rowing Association of Maldives which is currently seeking official recognition from the International Federation and the International Olympic Committee.
The local ambition is to set up six water sports clubs throughout the Upper Southern Province, while the national ambition is to bring major sporting events to the Maldives, like the World Rowing Coastal Championships.
If you want to learn more about the project or want to be part of it, please contact:
Maldives High Commission (London)
Sarah Mahir +44 (0)7792419342 email: [email protected]
Guin Batten in the UK on +44 (0)7710 457442 email: [email protected]
James Cowley in the Maldives on email: [email protected]