The following article first appeared in the ‘Next Generation’ column of the February 2009 issue of AsiaLIFE magazine. Photos are the author’s own and did not appear in the original article.
Phnom Penh is situated on the confluence of four rivers, but that doesn’t mean people know how to swim. Angela Savage interviews Andrew Schultz about his efforts to teach water safety skills, and looks at child-friendly pools in the capital.
With a friendly style and the energy to match a toddler, Andrew is a natural teacher. His praise helps reinforce the skills and confidence the child is developing as a pupil in his ‘tadpole’ swimming class.
Andrew arrived in Phnom Penh in October 2007. With a background in health promotion, and qualifications as a swim instructor (Austswim) and exercise physiologist, he looked around for a way to harness his interests to what he describes as an ‘exciting environment for business, where you can try new things out.’
‘I was surprised by the interest people had in learning to swim here,’ he says, ‘and also by the lack of ability.’
Data from Thailand and Vietnam showed high rates of death by drowning, and there was evidence to suggest the situation was similar in Cambodia. Andrew knew that teaching people to swim helps prevent drowning, and his straw poll suggested there was a local market for swimming lessons.
Thus CAMSWIM was born, kicking off in March 2008 with swimming lessons for children and adults. From its base at the pool at the Phnom Penh Centre on Sothearos Boulevard, the business has grown steadily to offer 16 classes per week.
Kids classes are offered in 14-week terms, three per year, at a cost of USD$4.00 for expatriates and USD$2.50 for Cambodians per class. The term starts mid-January 2008, but participants can start at any time and pay for the remaining number of classes in the term. The classes attract roughly equal numbers of locals and expats.
‘The parents of toddlers enjoy seeing quick improvement and progress in their children’s skills,’ Andrew says, ‘such as being able to put their face under and move independently in the water.’
And as for the children, ‘Kids love the songs we sing. For them, it’s learning through play.’
Children learn to swim fastest around the age of four to five. But they are at highest risk of drowning between the ages of one to four. Andrew teaches water safety skills for babies as young as six months.
‘The main thing is that if they’re not in the pool themselves, parents should only ever be an arm’s length away from their children and should watch them intently when they are in the water.’
Swimming classes for adults, too
Expatriate parents should also be aware that Cambodians who care for their children might not be able to swim, and might consider investing in swimming classes for carers. With adult classes costing $3 for Cambodians and $5 for expatriates and following the same 14-week terms, it’s a relatively small investment for a life-long, potentially life-saving skill.
Andrew’s current challenge is to train up local staff to become fully-fledged swim instructors, to meet the shortage of swimming teachers in Cambodia.
When it comes to kid-friendly pools in Phnom Penh, Andrew recommends choosing a place undercover or with plenty of shade. In most cases, it costs less to attend one of his half-hour classes than it does to swim in one of the pools listed below.
Kid-friendly pools in Phnom Penh
The Villa Langka is our family’s favourite. The pool isn’t huge but it’s clean, the lush garden always offers shady places, and the pool usage fee can be off-set against the cost of food and drinks. Cost weekdays USD$5/adult, $3/child; weekends $8/adult, $5/child.
The Himarawi Hotel has a large outdoor pool, separate kids’ pool and Jacuzzi. Cost of pool use weekdays $7/adult, $4/child aged 10-15 years and $3/child aged 5-9 years; weekends $8/adult, $5/child aged 10-15 years and $4/child aged 5-9 years. Children under 5 swim free.
The Billabong is a family-friendly hotel with a shady poolside area and open-air restaurant. Pool use costs $5 for adults, $3 for children.
The Kabiki is a family-friendly hotel run by the same people who run the not-so-family friendly Pavilion. The Kabiki has a separate kids’ pool and covered day-beds in a spacious garden. Pool use for non-guests is $5 for adults, $3 for kids.
The Parkway Health Club on Mao Tse Tung Boulevard near Spark Red has a large indoor pool with a semi-circular kids’ section at one end. Entrance fee of $8 is on the steep side but provides access to gym, sauna, etc.
Children use the pool for free at L’Imprevu Resort, Highway 1, 7km past the Monivong Bridge. Cost for adults is $4 at weekends, $2 on weekdays. The separate kids pool is in a shady area.
Andrew Schultz 017 986 297, email: email@example.com
14, Street 282, ph 023 726 771 http://www.villalangka.com
5, Street 158, ph. 023 223 703
Kabiki Boutique Hotel
22, Street 264, ph 023 222 290 http://www.thekabiki.com
Parkway Health Club (Parkway Square)
113 Mao Tse Tung Boulevard. Open 6am-10pm.
Highway 1, 7km past the Monivong Bridge. Ph 012 655 440 http://www.hotelimprevu.com