Splash buoys helper's self-esteem

14 May 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week (14 – 20 May) this year 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. Swim!    

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 HK2,500,000 and taught more than 1,200 people how to swim. The majority have been domestic helpers, but our classes have also taught refugees and local kids from low income neighbourhoods.

But Splash is so much more. Not only is swimming great exercise and a life skill for the many women (and men) who come from countries where drowning is prevalent, but overcoming their fear of water and mastering a new skill can make an enormous difference to self-esteem, confidence and mental health too. Our goal is to create an opportunity for these people to rise above their circumstances and flourish.

This isn't just wishful thinking. There is some pretty compelling research which shows that health and social status are highly correlated, and by empowering our students to feel they have more control over at least part of their lives, we can also improve their health.

That conclusion comes from British researcher Michael Marmot following four decades of research compiled in his book "Status Syndrome: How Social Standing Affects our Health and Longevity."  While it's widely accepted that diet, lifestyle, education and hereditary factors help explain why some people live longer than others, and that absolute poverty is bad for health, Marmot argues that social status also plays a big part.  

Marmot found that the higher your rank in the social hierarchy, you will live a longer, healthier life. That's because those at the top are less prone to stress suffered by those towards the bottom.  

That's where Splash comes in.

By teaching those from marginalised communities to swim, we help them improve their own sense of self-worth.  They stand taller as a result. Our vision is to create an oasis where they can flourish.

- Simon Holliday