Fishing skills

American swimming experts impart training and life skills to underprivileged girls in India

As part of a US State Department sports envoy program, two expert American swim coaches travel to fishing hamlets across India to empower the girls there. The initiative aims to impart swimming and life skills and ocean conservation to a selected group of girls, who belong to the disadvantaged community.

The experts – Julia Harbaugh and Nora Deleske – traveled to Kovalam in Tamil Nadu and Kozhikode in Kerala as part of their program.

According to them, the sport is used as a tool to build girls’ confidence, enable them to enjoy the water safely, increase their understanding of the fragility of the ocean environment and teach them life skills.

Based in San Francisco, Julia is one of the few coaches in the world with expertise in teaching the visually impaired to swim.

Originally from Arizona, Nora Deleske was the captain of the swimming and diving teams at Arizona State University (ASU). She had also participated in the 2016 and 2021 US Olympic trials.

The three-day hands-on workshops were conducted by an NGO, United Way of Chennai, in association with the US Consulate General in Chennai.

Experts also focused on helping participants overcome their fears and develop soft skills such as teamwork, goal setting and the importance of perseverance.

Prior to the workshop, they engaged with attendees via online sessions to build relationships and talk openly about women’s health and hygiene.

“We are thrilled about this initiative for these young girls. Although we have worked with children for years, empowering young women with a life skill such as open water swimming is a novel idea. We look forward to to see the impact it will create levels of self-confidence in girls and what it will mean for their families and community,” said Meenakshi Ramesh, Executive Director of United Way of Chennai.