Getting to Know

Saving Lives, One Child at a Time

Infant Self-Rescue swimming lessons keep drowning at bay.

By Kathy Borsuk

When a friend suggested an article about the availability of Infant Self-Rescue swimming lessons on-island, my imagination quickly conjured up visions of screaming babies thrashing about in the water, turning blue in the face. In fact, that’s exactly the scenario that instructor Jill Meyer-Swann is trying to prevent.

Jill is owner of Provo Swim School, and among the lessons she offers is the Infant Swimming Resource’s Self-Rescue® program. I’ve known Jill for a long time, she and I both moved to the Islands from the United States several decades ago, pursuing our dreams (and love). Jill’s passion is the water, and she says that from her first job as a Club Med watersports guide, there’s barely been a day that she hasn’t partaken off the country’s aqua elixir. 

Infant Self-Rescue (ISR) is a course in survival swimming lessons for infants and young children to prevent drowning.

Jill’s always struck me as a no-nonsense, “tough love” sort of woman, but as we talked about her swimming programs and life in general, I immediately sensed her big heart and love for children and the Turks & Caicos Islands. She explained, “As a mother and person who spends a lot of time in the water, I realized that a lot of children were at risk of drowning. Many adults never learned to swim, nor even thought about teaching their children. You can’t keep your child away from water; they will find it or be around it for life. So I always say, the sooner the safer. Swim skills are life skills.”

Jill felt so strongly about protecting young children from drowning that she enrolled in an extensive course in Infant Self-Rescue (ISR), to round out her American Red Cross and PADI training in swimming instruction and scuba diving, respectively. The course is offered by Infant Swimming Resource, the global leader in the industry it pioneered in 1966: survival swimming lessons for infants and young children. It took Jill two months to complete the course, including spending six weeks in Arizona practicing the techniques on twelve babies each day. She explains, “The basic concept behind Infant Self-Rescue is teaching children to become aquatic problem-solvers. I work with only one baby at a time, and what they learn depends on their age and stage of development.” While many parents feel they are protecting their child by strapping on a flotation device, Jill cautions this is a false sense of security because they won’t always be wearing it. 

The most basic skills are for an infant to learn to roll onto his or her back to float, rest, breathe, and maintain this position until help arrives. Jill has worked with babies as young as six months old, gently placing them in the water and helping them learn to turn over, creating the muscle memory that will allow them to eventually do it automatically. For children from one to six years old, Jill teaches the full Self-Rescue sequence of swimming until they need air, turning onto their back to float, then rolling over to continue swimming. Students repeat this until they reach the safety of steps, the side of the pool, or the shoreline. Jill explains, “While I always put safety first, my emphasis is teaching competence, which builds confidence, and leads to a lifetime of enjoyment in and around water. What more could you want in a country surrounded by the world’s most beautiful ocean?”

Swimming teacher Jill Meyer-Swann works on self-rescue techniques with Marta Morton’s granddaughter Ava.

Provo Swim School’s six-week ISR course includes ten minutes in the pool, five days a week. “So how do infants react?” I asked Jill. “And what about the parents?” This is where Jill’s abundant patience, positive energy—and tough love—come into play. “Some of them scream and cry because it is a new experience,” she bluntly states, “and sometimes the parents can’t take it and stop the lessons. But my motto is ‘Tears to triumph fears’ and when we stick to it, reinforcing the turning-over behavior over and over, these babies absorb the capacity to save their own lives. Most of them will swim before they can walk.” She has taught autistic and Down syndrome children using the same techniques. 

Jill also offers American Red Cross swimming lessons, both private, group, and maintenance, for older children and adults, including visitors, at select locations across TCI. Her goal? To save lives and make a difference in the community by teaching people to respect the water and learn the skills to prevent drowning for themselves and others. As a result, she spends much of the day, 10 to 20 lessons, in the swimming pool at her home in Grace Bay.

When she’s not in the pool, Jill takes to the seas via Total Adventures Company, her watersports excursions gig. (Which I think is as much fun for Jill as her clients!) Utilizing over three decades of life spent in TCI waters, Jill creates personalized boat excursions to deserted beaches and snorkeling spots and stand-up paddleboard trips through the mangroves. She also offers lessons in sailing, windsurfing, and kitesurfing. 

Even when children learn to swim, or float, or save themselves, Jill reiterates the need to ALWAYS keep an eye on children when they are near the water. In fact, part of the check-out procedures for lessons is to have the child fall in the pool fully dressed in winter clothes, as most accidents don’t happen when you are prepared. It’s also important that you dress your child in bright colors so they stand out in the water.

Jill puts out the call for corporate sponsors to fund lessons for children who might otherwise not be able to take advantage of them. You never know when you might help save a life!

For more information, visit www.provoswimschool.com, call (649)231-3122 or email j.swann@infantswim.com or jilltci@gmail.com. #notonemorechilddrownstci

#drowningprevention, #isr_provoswimschool



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Gary James at Provo Pictures (www.provopictures.com) used a drone to photograph this bird’s-eye view of Dragon Cay off Middle Caicos. It perfectly captures the myriad of colors and textures that make God’s works of art in nature so captivating.

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