A swimming enthusiast and instructor, Emeka Chuks-Nnadi, aka Swim Guru, tells TOFARATI IGE about the benefits of swimming and other issues

What gave birth to the Swim in 1 Day SID initiative?

I have always had a very strong conviction that I have a special calling to sensitise people to climate change and preparing for its consequences in Africa.

As a climate activist and swimming enthusiast, who swims for about five hours at sea, I felt that no one was better prepared or qualified for the job than me.

For this reason, I had always wanted to move back to Nigeria and give back to my people from the abundance of my God-given talents. However, I could not immediately do that, because I owned an events and tourism company in Spain, and could not just pack up and fire all my staff.

However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we all had to shut down, and that gave me the opportunity to visit Nigeria for a five-month holiday in 2021, to check out the possibility of moving back for an intellectual project I had in mind.

Back then, I often went swimming at a popular beach in Lagos, and while there, a bunch of indigent kids that lived in tents nearby always applauded my swimming. One of them asked to be taught, and I obliged but was forbidden to do that by the management of the reason, without giving any reason. I got upset, and that was how I took the decision to start the Swim in One Day Africa Initiative Project. I then moved back to Nigeria fully in April 2022, and started the project on May 19, 2022.

What are the most remarkable success stories that have been recorded by the initiative?

We have been able to teach some people with disabilities, especially the visually impaired, how to swim. Our best student last year was a visually impaired lady.

So far, we have given out over 50 swimming scholarships.

We intend to make water healing therapy a common practice in Africa. This is especially very good for the elderly ones, and people with disabilities of any kind.

We are also working towards assembling a junior paralympic team, made up of the visually impaired, mobility impaired, and autistic children.

Through the initiative, we have successfully held an event— Secure Naija’s Future— and we hope to do a lot more. The aim of this is to showcase the tremendous growth and transformation that can happen if children are trained to swim.

How and when did you start to swim?

I learnt to swim in one day from my dad at the age of nine.

Why did you take it upon yourself to be a swimming advocate?

I am not just a swimming advocate, but a climate awareness, disability awareness and inclusion advocate. I am driven by the passion to teach and promote awareness about swimming, disability and inclusion, and climate change.

I added the part of disabilities after I was discriminated against at various swimming pools in Lagos, because I was with my visually impaired students.

My love and passion for the causes I mentioned below stem from my great and undying love for Africa.

What are the disadvantages you face in the course of running this initiative?

I always knew it would be a difficult mission, but I am a resilient person who does not give up. Success is the only outcome I accept in life.

The issues I am dealing with are actually things that most Africans do not take seriously. We live in a ‘climate emergency’ but a lot of people seem not to understand this. We need to understand that disasters and accidents do not usually alert one before they happen. And, that is what we preach with our motto— Better Safe than Sorry.

Is it compulsory for everyone to know how to swim, including the ones who don’t live in coastal or riverine areas?

It is a matter of urgency for everyone to learn how to swim now more than ever. A lot of natural disasters are water related, and activities destroying the climate are on the increase. Judging by some of the physical evidence we have seen in recent times, especially as regards flooding, it does not take a genius to know the importance of survival swimming and water safety.

What are the most important qualities a swimmer should have?

Knowing and mastering all the water safety rules is a great quality to have. That is why I have never experienced or witnessed an accident in all my years of swimming. I always observe the rules, and caution others around me to do the same.

What is the scariest experience you have ever had while swimming?

There was a time I got stung at sea in Europe by a cluster of jellyfish. The pain was excruciating but I knew better than to panic. I immediately did the ‘dead man float’ and waited for the pain to subside. I then swam to shore with one arm.

How do you get funding for your activities?

Initially, the idea was that the organisation would fund itself through teaching swimming, and organising charity events. I am not used to begging for the things I need. I had never run a non-governmental organisation before, but I believed that as a successful business consultant in Europe, I would be able to raise enough funds if I worked hard enough.

However, reality is setting in, and I am now open to external funding.

So far, I am the only one sponsoring the activities of the organisation. However, my mum gave me a huge chunk of money earlier in the year. She is my greatest supporter and mentor.

There are usually cases of people, especially children and the youth, dying in swimming pools. What’s the best way to prevent such negative occurrences?

Everyone must learn water safety and survival swimming. After observing careless behavioural patterns in and around swimming pools, I came up with a Nigerian adaptation of swimming pool guidelines.

It is important for every swimming pool owner, attendant and people who patronise pools to be aware of these guidelines to prevent cases of drowning.

Those guidelines should be placed conspicuously at every pool and swimmers should read it before swimming.

In what ways can swimming impact positively on one’s life?

Swimming could impact every aspect of one’s life. The benefits of swimming include maintaining a healthy weight, heart and lungs; building muscles, de-stressing and relaxation purposes; reducing anxiety and depression; improving one’s sleep patterns; effectively burning calories; lowering risk of heart diseases, and boosting the immune system.

Also, it boosts one’s energy levels through increased metabolic rate.

Prior to SID, what was your career trajectory?

I have been an entrepreneur since I was 17 years old. I am also a hospitality and business consultant.

What are your educational qualifications?

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, and two Master’s degrees in Hotel Management, and Innovative Hospitality Management.

How do you like to dress?

I like to describe myself as a proud African who embraces the simplicity of my roots.

As an intellectual, I disagree with the saying, ‘Dress how you wish to be addressed’.

We neglect the most important things, such as intelligence and kindness, that could bring us progress as a people, and focus on vain/material things, that really do not matter.

A young Nigerian man once told me that I was poor like him because I don’t wear gold chains and other accessories.

I believe the saying should be modified to, ‘Act how you wish to be addressed’.

That way, we do not have a society that values a man according to how much wealth he is to show off, but by how much intellectual contribution he brings to the table to bring about positive change in society.



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