19 December 2022

Zara makes a splash in Mumbai after lessons at The Valleys Lifestyle Centre

Not all results of the Covid emergency were negative. The journey of primary school student Zara Carminede Sousa from India to Clare and then back to Mumbai again as a competent swimmer, is testament to a positive outcome of the pandemic.

Zara was born and lived in India but thanks to her mother, Tamara, originally being from the Clare area, they were able to relocate back to South Australia during the Covid period. Tamara grew up in Blyth and her parents now live in Clare.

Tamara took the opportunity to enrol Zara in swimming lessons at The Valleys Lifestyle Centre during this time and she thrived under the guidance of YMCA swimming teacher Penny Heinjus and her team.

Zara has now returned to India where her family lives in a suburb of Mumbai. She has joined a swimming club there and Tamara said her experiences at The Valleys Lifestyle Centre are her motivation to pursue the sport at home.

“We thank (Penny) for all the training in lessons when we were in Clare. We think of her often,” she said.

“Zara finally got into a swim club called The Otters Club in Bandra, a suburb in Mumbai. She trains two to three times a week with the coaches and children her own age, who she also practices relay events with. She is now doing tumble turns and getting better at her dives.”

“She entered her first swim competition recently and won two silver medals and one bronze medal. This was huge - there were 250 kids competing at this event and all under 10s. She was part of the freestyle relay team and the did backstroke in the medley relay,” said Tamara.

Clare and Gilbert Valleys YMCA Manager, Ben Whalan, said Zara’s success in YMCA swimming lessons underlined the importance of teaching water safety and competence at an early age.

“I’m very proud of the effort put in by Penny and our staff to teach Zara the basics of swimming and confidence in the water while she was part of our community. This may not have been available to her in India and now she has returned home with a set of lifelong safety skills,” he said.

“Enrolling children in swimming lessons should be the number one priority for all parents. This is especially so in Australia, a country with a huge culture of water activities. Zara’s story is a great example of success.”