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The Tsunami has tragically brought to light that many lives were lost because of a fear of water and an inability to swim. In a land surrounded by a coastline and blessed with many inland waterways, over 90% of the population is unable to swim and consequently very fearful of water.

The primary reason for this inability can be attributed to the unavailability of pool facilities for children and the general public. Existing swimming training programs are geographically limited to Colombo and surrounding areas and financially limited to the more affluent citizenry.

As a response, CandleAid has designed its “Swim For Safety” programme to teach the underprivileged children to swim.

Training Programme

A team of 25 children is trained in 12 lessons within four weeks. Each lesson is two hours. Coaching is free and if needed, free swim wear too is given. There are many prospective children swimmers who cannot even afford a basic swimsuit. To successfully complete the “Swim For Safety” programme each student is required to swim 25 metres unaided. At the end of the programme we had a success rate of 95%

The main obstacle for the success of this project is finances. Due to financial difficulties, the “Swim for Safety” programme had to reduce by half its 2010 target, currently aiming at training five hundred children per year. CandleAid needs funds to support its project and ensure that underprivileged children continue to have access to water safety skills. CandleAid is seeking participation from corporate entities, schools, and individuals who would be interested in sponsoring underprivileged children to learn to swim for safety. The cost of training one team of 25 students is LKR 68,500.

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To support CandleAid’s Swimming Programme you can donate here. You can also sponsor a team of 25 to swim. The cost per team of 25 children is LKR 68, 500 (approximately USD 530)

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Project Development

In 2006, CandleAid constructed a swimming pool at the cost of LKR 9 million (approx. USD 90,000) in a town called Moratuwa, which is the cradle of CandleAid, where this grassroots organisation was founded. Moratuwa is located 12 miles south of Colombo.

CandleAid made an agreement with the Head of the Catholic Church as the pool was built on the premises of a catholic school called St. Sebastian’s College (SSC). CandleAid was entitled to use the pool for one hundred hours every month for a period of ten years to train underprivileged children to swim. The school would take care of the maintenance of the pool and will utilise remaining hours for their students


The basic objective of this initiative is to provide children with essential water safety skills so that they are not frightened by their inability to swim and they can properly react in case of a water danger.

More specifically, the objectives of the programme are:

1. To offer an opportunity for Sri Lankan children to learn to swim. The project caters to children who may not otherwise have such opportunity and certainly no access to a pool.

2. To encourage Sri Lankan parents and children to explore the economic and social opportunities available through water-based activities by minimising the phobia they have of water and water-based activities.

3. To encourage undertaking swimming as a sport by enabling opportunities for the poorer segments of the population access to swimming pools and related facilities such as coaching and training.

4. To develop a wide-spread ability among the coastal population to swim, minimising the risk of incidence of drowning in times of water based disasters.

Please contact the following for any further details