A group of Coventry women are helping others in their local community to get active in a supportive environment after becoming qualified lifeguards.
Seven women living in Foleshill have banded together to help increase access to female-only swimming sessions with support from CV Life and Positive Youth Foundation (PYF).
The group has trained to become qualified life guards through the Go Foleshill programme, which was launched in May 2021 to address health inequalities, including the lack of female-led sports and leisure, that disproportionately affect the Foleshill community.
As well as helping more than 3,000 local people get active via a range of activities including cycling and canoeing, the initiative has helped to directly increase swimming participation in the area, working with CV Life and the Rising Stars Youth & Community Group to develop the swimming abilities of 20 women in the Foleshill community.
The weekly sessions, which were held in a safe and comfortable environment to encourage body-confidence and welcome all backgrounds, has helped to prepare participants to directly impact their own communities.
Amna Sami, who became a qualified lifeguard through Go Foleshill, said: “Go Foleshill has been a brilliant way of enabling women of all faiths and backgrounds to make use of their community spaces, as female supervision allows women to exercise without disregarding customs and beliefs around socialising with other men.
“The sessions themselves were a great way to build friendships and bonds in the local community, and they will have a lasting effect for everyone involved, especially as we now look to build on this and push for more female-friendly sessions to take place across the city.
“There is a real need to continue building this support structure to help people in the area feel comfortable in the pool, in their swimming costumes, and in their own skin so they can get active and be part of the community.”
Annette Allen, who also became qualified through the programme, added: “It’s been a liberating experience for everyone involved and to be able to now have the chance to allow more members of the community to experience that is fantastic.
“By providing supervision to other women, we are hoping to reduce the fears and concerns that women of any age, ability or background might have about taking part in group exercise. The support from PYF has been fantastic, and we are looking forward to building on what they have helped to start.”
Go Foleshill was supported by strategic partners Coventry City Council and West Midlands Combined Authority and funded by Sport England.
Nikki Miles, Programme Lead for Healthy Futures at PYF, said: “Go Foleshill has been a huge part of our Healthy Futures programme at PYF, in our ongoing mission to help people get active in their communities and improve their lifestyles.
“We have helped to implement a wide range of exciting projects and activities over the last 18 months to help the Foleshill community get more active, and we have seen some incredible results, including through our lifeguard initiative.
“We are extremely proud of all of the women who took part in the programme. Some of the feedback has been incredible, but we are thrilled that they now plan to take what they have learned out into the wider community and enable others to feel the benefits.”
Laura Williams, Centre Manager at CV Life, said: “It has been a privilege to support PYF with Go Foleshill, and especially pleasing to see the drive to support female-led swimming sessions, which we have been trying to push for a number of years now.
“The impact that just a few new lifeguards can have is massive in terms of the potential number of people we can help to get active, and their commitment to their training, as well as the enjoyment they have had in participating, has been truly inspiring.”