Push is on for more accessible swim lessons

As the community said a final goodbye to a teen who had moved to Boise with his family just days before drowning in Quinn's Pond, refugee advocates have begun looking at ways to make swim lessons more accessible.

Funeral and memorial services were held Saturday for Dieudonne Eca, the 15-year-old boy who drowned on July 14 in Quinn’s Pond.

The executive director for the International Rescue Committee in Boise, Julianne Donnelly Tzul, said since the accident, many members of the community are pushing for more accessible swimming lessons for refugee children.

"While I was at the reception for Dieudonne's funeral today a young man who is going to be a junior at BSU in structural engineering sat me down and said, ‘Now what are we going to do to make sure refugee kids have swimming lessons?'"

Dieudonne had just arrived in Boise less than two weeks before the accident.

Tzul said Dieudonne and his family fled from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and stayed in refugee camps for several years.

"If you've been living in a camp that doesn't have a water source around it, or even if it does, it's simply not the cultural practice to go play in the water, right? You're suddenly uprooted and you’re living in a place where water is part of our culture," Tzul said.

She said these children need to learn the same skills many American children learn.

"You have the skills to float. You have the skills to dog paddle. You have the skill not to sink," Tzul said.   

While there are many wonderful swimming programs available to refugee families, they aren’t always accessible she said.

That’s for a few different reasons. The lessons might not be near public transit, or the time doesn’t fit a work schedule, so Tzul's idea is to develop a program where swimming lessons are done at apartment complex pools.

"Though there is nothing to salvage the loss of a human life, especially the life of a child, it has electrified people from many different parts of our community to change what we do to do what we do better," Tzul said. 

Tzul said this idea is in the very early stages, so there are no details about when it could start.

© 2017 KTVB-TV


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