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The start of something extraordinary

St Albans Swim Club Persevere Through Tough Times

St Albans Swim Club has had a lot of obstacles to overcome since the Christchurch earthquakes. The club has operated out of the Shirley Intermediate School pool since the St Albans pool was demolished in 2006. Two wonderful seasons of daily lessons for school age children were taught by volunteer coaches in order to provide accessible and affordable tuition.

In 2010 the Shirley Intermediate School Board of Trustees took a big step and funded solar heating for their two outdoor pools and as a result the club had a large enrolment in anticipation of using the heated pools.

When the September earthquake struck Christchurch the pools looked relatively undamaged, but just as lessons were about to begin and the opening ceremony was held, it was discovered that the pipework beneath the pool was quake damaged. Initially lessons were postponed, but after the repairs were delayed the season was cancelled and fees were reimbursed.

After the February earthquake the whole suburb was devastated with many families losing their homes in the neighbouring ‘Red zone’. Families left Christchurch, school rolls dropped, and both pools at Shirley Intermediate School were out of action and surrounding schools also lost their pools. City council pools were closed and swimming at local beaches was not allowed because of sewerage pollution.

Later in the year when council pools reopened it was impossible and unaffordable to book any lane space for the club. The QEII pool complex was also closed by quake damage and has been demolished in the past year.

St Albans Swim Club Secretary and Treasurer, Valerie Somerville, explains what it has been like for Cantabrians living in Christchurch with limited access to facilities such as swimming pools.

“It is very difficult with a huge number of children who have missed out on learning to swim because of limited pool space, loss of school pools, and clubs like ours losing facilities and being unable to operate and provide swimming lessons,” said Valerie.

But she is optimistic about the future plans for the club.

“The Shirley Intermediate School pools are being repaired for the summer and we are planning to once again provide affordable swimming lessons for the St Albans/Shirley community. Our main challenge will be to rebuild a volunteer staff of trained coaches, lifeguards, and pool supervisors. Because there are still limited opportunities for swimming in Christchurch, especially in the East, Shirley Intermediate now sees their pools as a major community asset.

“Our goal has always been to serve the local community by providing affordable Learn to Swim tuition, and a senior training squad, all in a family friendly atmosphere.”