Hong Kong’s domestic helpers and marginalised standing tall in the pool
Mental Health Awareness Week (May 14-20) this year in the UK focuses on stress. Splash, Hong Kong’s only swim school for marginalised communities, has a unique solution to alleviating stress and promoting mental wellness in those who need it most.
The Hong Kong community has been incredibly supportive of Splash, our swim school that provides free courses to marginalised communities. Since we started in 2015, we have raised over HK$2.5 million and taught more than 1,200 people how to swim. The majority have been domestic helpers, but we teach refugees and local kids from low-income neighbourhoods as well.
Not only is swimming great exercise and a life skill, but overcoming the fear of water and mastering a new skill can make an enormous difference to self-esteem, confidence and mental health.
This isn’t just wishful thinking. In his study, “Status Syndrome: How social standing affects our health and longevity”, British researcher Michael Marmot found that the higher your rank in the social hierarchy, the longer and healthier life you will live.
At Splash, we help our participants improve their sense of self-worth. Here in Hong Kong, they often have little in the way of support networks, and are vulnerable to exploitation from employment agencies, loan sharks and unscrupulous relatives. By giving our participants a sense of accomplishment and more control over a part of their lives, we help reduce their stress and all its undesirable health effects.
At Splash, they can throw off the mantle of “helpers” and become “swimmers” who bring tremendous enthusiasm, determination and bravery to the pool, mixed with plenty of laughter.
Splash has always been about more than swimming. We improve physical and mental health through empowerment and connection.
Simon Holliday, co-founder, Splash Foundation