Women make a splash and beat the blues

Women who have joined the adult swimming lessons at Bonteheuwel public swimming pool do an exercise routine in the water.

An adult learn-to-swim programme in Bonteheuwel has many women flocking to it for both physical and mental wellness.

The Bonteheuwel Walking Ladies (BWL) is offering free classes at the public swimming pool on Monday and Wednesday mornings, and women from all over Cape Town have joined in.

BWL chairwoman Soraya Salie says many women are suffering from anxiety brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the stigma of testing positive, along with growing unemployment and poverty caused by the lockdown.

“Some people don’t know how to handle these challenging times, and it could lead to depression,” she said.

There is also fitness training at the poolside for those women who don’t want to go in the water.

“Covid-19 brought on a lot of negatives, but also some positives. When we, as women, gather here, we leave whatever we think is important, especially that which overwhelms us negatively. Here we realise we are the most important person on earth, and if we are not going to take care of ourselves, we won’t be able to take care of others.”

A friend invited Sylvia Hope to the swimming lessons. “I didn’t know what to expect,” she said. But she soon fitted in.

“The ladies here are so uplifting. They made me feel welcome from the minute I arrived. They are also spiritual, and we pray together and encourage one another. I lost my job and things were tough, but after a session here, I feel revitalised and can take on whatever challenges come my way. I come here and forget all about my problems. I love being here. As women, we need to stand together and pray together.”

Moenieba Miller, 59, was very stressed after lockdown left her three children jobless, but the programme at the pool has helped, and now she doesn’t want to miss a session.

“When I am here, my mind is clear. I can even move better now. I have arthritis, and since I joined the BWL, I can now make all kinds of movements,” she said.

Edna Petersen concentrates before making her next move.

Waadeyah Kherekar comes all the way from Sunbird Park in Kuils River.

“I appreciate everything Soraya does for us,” she said. “She was the one who motivates me and gives me strength to go on. My husband is in hospital with emphysema, and his oxygen levels have depleted to such an extent that he now needs to be on an oxygen tank permanently. I was filled with so many anxieties – not being able to visit my husband in hospital, and worrying about him needing an oxygen tank when he comes home. Being here takes all the stress away, however, and I am so grateful for that.”