By Ben Frid (Meds 15)
My name is Ben Frid, and I’d like to tell you why I Make Waves.
“It’s the highlight of his week! He’s always asking me when he can go swimming (or more often “go play sharks”) with Daniel. He talks about swimming at the Queen’s pool almost every day, and when there was no lesson last week because of reading week, he was positively beside himself. He used to be afraid of the water and now he adores swimming!”
That was just one parent’s testimonial of Making Waves, but most parents describe a similar situation with their little swimmers in our program. And if those reports weren’t evidence enough, it’s easy to tell there’s something special going on when a small boy or girl runs with elated face and arms at maximum wingspan to embrace their instructor they only met 2 weeks ago.
Making Waves is a program whose purpose is to teach swimming lessons to children with special needs. If the population of children we work with doesn’t sound very specific, that’s intentional. We accept any child between the ages of 3 and 15 with a mental disability into our program, and pair them with a qualified university student to serve as their instructor. Many of these children have attempted typical group lessons, but these lessons generally don’t meet their needs. When parents seek out private 1-on-1 lessons, they’re often discouraged to find out that these lessons typically cost around $40 per hour. Because Making Waves employs volunteer instructors and has a very lean organizational design, we can keep our costs very low, and at $25/semester, our lessons cost about 5% of equivalent lessons. It’s an incredible idea (that I certainly won’t attempt to take credit for), and that’s been reflected in the rapid growth of individual chapters, as well as the start-up of new chapters at universities all across Canada. Making Waves generates a lot of value for communities, and in return these communities have shown the program a lot of support.
I’m currently a second year medical student at Queen’s, and despite having a fairly busy schedule, Making Waves remains one of the most important things I do. My involvement began while living in Ottawa in 2009. A good friend of mine from my undergraduate years at McGill, Matthew Morantz, had started the program in Montreal and was eager to expand it to other university campuses around Canada. When he approached me about starting a chapter in Ottawa, I jumped at the chance. Two years later, when I was fortunate enough to receive an offer to Queen’s School of Medicine, the fact that Queen’s didn’t have a Making Waves chapter yet was at the forefront of my mind. With the help of some of my colleagues in medical school, in particular Aaron Wynn and Alexis Jozefacki, I started the Kingston chapter of Making Waves in Fall 2011. We have seen the club grow to about 40 children, and we have high hopes we can serve even more of the local population.
Communities benefit from Making Waves, and we have an economic impact through the accessibility to the program via our low-cost model. Our instructors are thrilled to be a part of what we’re doing, and we unfortunately cannot even take on all of the eager and compassionate students who apply to join our mission. For me, however, it is the huge smiles, the euphoric high fives, and the proud “Mom! Mom! Did you see that?!”s that motivate me to continue Making Waves.
For more information, go to http://www.makingwaveskingston.org/