For many, the decision to head to the local pool for a swim just involves packing a bag, getting into the car and turning up to the local swimming pool ready for a dip. For others within our local communities, it isn’t so simple.

For some religions the need for females to protect the core of their culture is sacrosanct, and that can mean that a public session at your local leisure centre is a no-go.

Active Nation is tackling the barriers that many groups within our local communities face when wanting to learn or practice swimming within the city. Thanks to funding awarded from Southampton Healthy Living, a group of health, voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations who are working together to improve life expectancy and health inequalities across Southampton, we have been able to extend our mission - to persuade the nation to be active – to even more groups within the city.

The Active Nation team have been working closely with West Itchen Community Trust, a social enterprise established for the community development and regeneration of inner-city Southampton. They have successfully engaged with just over 80 BME females. These swimmers are now enjoying Learn to Swim programmes as well as recreational swim sessions at Bitterne Leisure Centre.

James Warrener, Active Nation’s Contract Aquatics Manager told us: “I’m proud to be part of an organisation who has community engagement built into their DNA. It’s humbling to be able to offer such great opportunities to groups within the community where a little thought and consideration needs to go into the planning. I have no doubt that this is the beginning of a brilliant relationship with another community group in Southampton.”

The weekly sessions take place at Bitterne Leisure Centre where female swimmers can enjoy a structured Learn to Swim programme, or socialise with friends and family in a suitable atmosphere. The sessions provide participants with a pathway into employment, with subsidised lifeguarding and swim instructor opportunities – with ultimate sustainability as a key goal in mind.

Maxwell Bradbury-Knight, Active Nation’s Partnership Manager told us: “Creating suitable signature activity programmes within communities is something that is very important to Southampton residents. Whether you’re a full-time working mum, unemployed, disabled or have a life-limiting condition, we all have a right to fitness and activity and therefore a healthier lifestyle. Providing sessions for BME females allows us to create an atmosphere of social wellbeing as well as structured activity and employed pathways for many that are new to exercise and require a supportive atmosphere to participate.”

The social aspect has been great for the participants who have had the opportunity to come and enjoy leisure swimming and play in the pool with their friends. This is an opportunity that a lot of us often take for granted – it’s important to remember that swimming is not an activity that is readily available to all members of our community.

The participants are continuing to thoroughly enjoy these sessions and have improved their swimming skills through playing, diving and learning to perfect their technique.

Active Nation are a charity on a mission to persuade the nation to be active. If you are a community organisation, local representative or want to know more about community activity programmes, events or workforce development opportunities that are offered within the city, get in touch with the Active Communities Team here.