Mutual aid, peace and justice
Making Waves Montreal
Committed to giving disabled children the chance to learn to swim
All parents hope that their children will one day learn to swim and there are many programs available to satisfy this desire. But when your child is autistic, suffers from Down Syndrome or has a hearing or visual impairment, the resources available for teaching them to swim are rare and, above all, very costly. To remedy the situation, students at McGill University decided to join forces and establish the Making Waves Montreal program that offers private swimming lessons for a special clientele at a cost that is almost… symbolic.
The founders launched their program in 2004 under the name Blind Swim Montreal, focusing their efforts on helping children with visual disabilities but they quickly realized that this need touched a much broader clientele. “More and more parents began enquiring about our services and there seemed to be a definite interest,” explains the program’s spokesman Matthew Morantz. “In 2006 we therefore decided to extend our program to meet other special needs and to change the name to Making Waves Montreal. There were five children enrolled in our program the first year; today there are more than 40.”
Since its inception, a total of almost 100 children have benefited from the Making Waves program and have progressed thanks to their private teacher, a student volunteer from McGill. Numbering over sixty, the team of volunteer instructors were first given the necessary training for working with children with special needs. The role of instructor first and foremost requires a great deal of patience and perseverance as well as a good dose of creativity, but is nonetheless highly rewarding.
“Although my courses teach me all I need to know to become an engineer, I have never been taught how to become an adult and be committed to my community. (…) Making Waves has allowed me to touch the lives of a number of youngsters in a tangible and lasting manner. It has been an exceptionally enriching experience,” asserts volunteer instructor Marie-Christine NoÎl.
And it is not only the program’s volunteers that make the difference. At a time when Making Waves was experiencing financial difficulties, other students at McGill pulled together in order to help support the organization financially by organizing fundraising activities and by talking about the program in the university newspapers. “This unsolicited involvement enabled us to raise the money required to continue pursuing our mission,” Matthew explains, adding that parents can call upon the services of a private instructor for their child for an entire session of nine lessons for only $20.
The positive repercussions of Making Waves can be felt far beyond the Montréal region. Spurred on by their success, the student members of the program established Making Waves Canada, a program that will oversee the implementation of the same type of project at other Canadian universities. Making Waves McMaster in Hamilton is already up and running and another should soon be operational in London.
“If I hadn’t had recourse to the program, Harlan would never be where he is today. I am really impressed by the work and efficiency of the students in charge of the program. May the program live on,” remarks Nina L. Padden, mother of Harlan, an autistic child.
Making Waves Montreal