Swimming for All Clinic

A Peacemaking Project by tara h.

What is the injustice we are solving?

Drowing is 2nd leading cause of accidental death for children 1-14 years old. Drowning claims nearly half a million people every year and half of those victims are children. Children of disability are of higher risky for drowning. Swimming for All Clinic teaches water safety and basic swimming skills to the autistic children.

Our Compassionate Solution:

To solve this injustice of autistic children are at a high risk of drowning
we will address not enough opportunity for autistic children to learn swimming
by teaching autistic children on how to swim and water safety

Our Project Plan:


  • teach autistic children how to swim

We will increase my / our compassion by...

work with local autism school for recruiting autistic children, recruiting the high school varsity swimmer to teach

How will you show courage?

by doing the things I have never done before and challenge myself

How will you collaborate with others?

by focusing on value of helping others

How will you know you are moving in the right direction? (What are specific ways you can measure your impact?)

the smile on the clinic participants' face after the clinic

Key Steps

  • recruite swimmers, recruite participants and execute the clinic as planned


How did the project deepen your team's understanding of the injustice?

My interest in serving special needs children is rooted in my love for my family. My uncle Darrell was born with severe brain damage and has had to deal with many challenges in his life, including learning & speech disabilities, as well as seizures, which have taken a big toll on his life as well as those of my grandparents. I have been a competitive swimmer since eight years old and after my grandmother passed away during the summer before I started high school, I was determined to use my passion for swimming to help kids like my uncle. That is why I started the Swimming for All Clinics, in which my high school swimming teammates and I teach water safety and swimming skills to kids with special needs. After the successful clinic, numerous parents of the participants have thanked us for organizing and conducting the clinics, as they see how much more active and confident their children have become in the water after the clinic. The participants have also greatly enjoyed the social aspect of having a high school swimmer devote so much time and attention to them. Furthermore, my teammates and I have benefited equally, if not more, from the experience. We have developed a deeper understanding of the potential of children with disabilities, and we have also learned that the leadership and teamwork skills that we have acquired in the pool can be applied outside the pool to make a difference in our communities.

How did your community change as a result of your project?

Drowning is the 2nd leading cause of accidental death for children 1-14 years old, and this risk increases for kids with disabilities. \ Drowning claims nearly half a million lives every year and half of those victims are children. My project has increased the community awareness of water safety issue for children with autism. Further more, Swimming for All believes that parents should never stress financially to provide their kids swim lessons. Swimming is something vital to learn, which is why we offer these clinics free of charge, allowing even more kids to learn water safety.

How many people were impacted by your project?


Explain how you came up with the number of people impacted by the project?

10 high school varsity swim team as swim instructors, 10 autistic children who participated the clinic and another 20 people were behind the organization of the project, including life guards, photographers, etc.

How did your team learn more about the people affected by the injustice?

Even learning the basic water skills for autistic children can be hard. For example, for one child, just dipping his elbow in the water took us one hour. We can not use conventional thinking to measure their progress and the patience is key. We have also developed a deeper understanding for the people in our community, specifically people with disabilities. Rather than ignoring or judging them, we take pride in understanding and helping them. At the end of the clinic, the instructors and learners sit down together, allowing us to create many friendships between kids of all different abilities.

What did your team learn?

my teammates and I have benefitted equally, if not more, from the experience. We have developed a deeper understanding of the potential of children with disabilities, and we have also learned that the leadership and teamwork skills that we have acquired in the pool can be applied outside the pool to make a difference in our communities. By engaging in this project, we have learned that we live in a kind society and, if we try hard enough, we can find resources and people who want to help for a good cause. I have also learned many important skills, such as budgeting, grant writing, social interactions, and leadership. Everyone has the ability to change the world. Even just a small act can make big difference. The team has also learned that not everybody is the same as them, and it is crucial to accept everybody for who they are.

What challenges did your team overcome?

Though the clinic ran smoothly, it did not come without bumps on the way. Our biggest struggle was stretching our budget. When we realized how many different costs went into organizing a swim clinic, we made sure that we were spending the finances we had in the most efficient way possible. Having a meal at the end as a time to bond with the autistic kids was crucial to us, so we knew we would have to get a discount. When we contacted Chick-fil-A the first time, they denied us a discount. However, we kept stressing the importance of the kids learning how to swim, and eventually were given a strong discount. This is just one example of the financial struggles we had to overcome, especially with the clinics being free. We also had to overcome struggles with finding a time for the pool that would work for everyone, finding a pool that would work for these beginner lessons, etc.

How have you involved others in designing, carrying out, or expanding this project?

Putting together all the logistics for the Swimming for All Clinic has to be my most fulfilling leadership experience. My teammates and I contacted a local Autism School and identified autistic children for the clinic. In parallel, I recruited my high school varsity swim teammates to help for individualized instruction . There were so many tasks and our team “divide and conquer” approach worked really well. All of my teammates collectively designed an adaptive swimming program including both 1:1 teaching and group fun water games. I realized that I couldn’t make this event happen without funding so I applied for and won a $250 Peace First grant. Since my funding was still limited, my teammates and I convinced the local Chick-fil-A to provide food at a discount. I have learned that as a leader, you have to tackle the toughest task. I have also learned the importance of providing leadership to my teammates in setting a good example of the hard work required to excel in establishing a supportive team environment in which everyone is encouraged to reach full potential. Giving leadership to other people was also crucial, as the whole project could not be put on by just one person, so I gave other people the jobs of designing t-shirts, organizing my teammates, reserving pool space, etc. Expanding my leadership and teamwork skills that I have learned through swimming into the broader community has also been such a rewarding experience

What advice would you give to someone starting a peacemaking project?

I would say the community is more willing to help than you would think, and there are so many opportunities for you to change your community. As small as one project starts, there are no limits to the number of lives it can change with constant perseverance and determination.

Our Updates:

Swimming for All

tara h. 5 June 2018 19:11 Some photos from our swim clinic!


Adrian B. Peace First Staff
5 June 2018 16:37

Hi Tara!

Congratulations on finishing your peacemaking project! I’m on the Peace First team and wanted to say thank you for your amazing work and for taking time to share about your work.

Below you will find some feedback based on your Reflection, which we hope will help you to celebrate your incredible accomplishment and reflect on how to grow and develop your project in the future:


Wow! This project is so important, and it is saving lives. Thanks for sharing about your personal connection to this with your brother, and for involving the community in this work. I loved hearing about how your community stepped up in unexpected and powerful ways.

I also loved reading about the ways that connections were built across abled and disabled communities, and how you used compassion, conviction, and persistence to make this a reality. I'm impressed!

Things to consider:

I'm wondering about the ways your project could expand--and what magical new possibilities might open--if you worked to understand the perspectives of autistic advocates themselves and autistic children on the oppression they face. How can they partner, plan, and lead this initiative? A common disability justice saying is "Nothing about us without us is for us." How can the planning happen with autistic community members? Here's an article that talks about this more: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nothing-about-us-without-us-mantra-for-a-movement_us_59aea450e4b0c50640cd61cf I'm happy to think with you about ways this could become a reality.

We hope you will stay in touch and keep us up to date as you continue your work to create change!


RaulPF C. Peace First Staff
3 April 2018 9:05

Dear Tara,
Congratulations! Your project has been selected to receive a Peace First Challenge mini-grant. We will be in touch soon with details about this payment.

The mini-grant process is also a space for you to get feedback on your peacemaking project. We hope you will use this feedback to further strengthen your project. Please see the feedback on your mini-grant below.

It is great to see how you have identified a clear injustice that is affecting a specific population and the fact that you want to take a very clear action to address it. We are also really happy to see how open you have been to our feedback to improve the way in how you are designing your project.

Things to Consider:
We have some ideas that could make your project stronger:
- Thinking about ways to measure the success of your project that are easier to communicate. For example, you could count how many young people have been trained to measure in terms of quantity and then you could also develop a super simple survey where you can ask the participants a few questions. For example, do you feel more confident with your swimming abilities after the training? And then measure how many of them say "yes". Your goal might be for example to ensure that at least 75% of the participants feel more confident as a result of the training. And if they do not feel confident, you can try to learn more about what you could do differently the next time you do a similar training.

- Consent: Please make sure that if you take photos of the training, the parents and the students give you their consent to use those images on this website.

We are super excited to hear how this project goes.

Congratulations and best of luck with your project!

Raul and the Peace First Team  

Kelsey T.
29 March 2018 17:58

Great! Glad we're on the same page! Could you make a couple of adjustments to your "insight" language to make it a bit clearer to folks that the "injustice" you're working on changing is that autistic children are at a higher risk of drowning? Then for the 'root cause' bit you can change it to explain what root cause you're working on -- for example something about how there are not enough opportunities for autistic children to how to swim safely. That will help other folks understand your thinking behind the project.

You can do that by going to your dashboard and click on "compassionate insight."  

Adrian B. Peace First Staff
29 March 2018 16:17

Hi Tara,

I'm glad they're so helpful! Thanks for bringing this important issue to my awareness. I'm happy to help however I can and to keep on thinking deeply with you. Let me know how we can support your important work!


tara h.
27 March 2018 14:54

Hi, Adrian:
yes. the statistics is super scary but very true, that is why there are a lot of work waiting for us. All of the website you linked are super helpful and I might contact them for more information. thanks for thinking deeply on this project!


tara h.
27 March 2018 14:51

Hi, Kelsey:
You are absolutely correct that I want to create equal opportunity through this initiative  

Kelsey T.
14 February 2018 14:07

Hi Tara!
I’m part of the Peace First team and wanted to provide you with Feedback for your Compassionate Insight. We provide insight feedback to help teams further strengthen their ideas as they head into the plan phase -- and since the insight is an important part of the mini-grant application, we also welcome you to use it make to strengthen your application before we review it.

First of all, I think this is such an interesting project idea -- providing autistic children with training on water safety and swimming is such a tangible way to address the problem of a disproportionate number of autistic children drowning.

I'd encourage you to think a bit more about how to articulate the injustice you are addressing and the root cause of that injustice that you are focusing on. For example, you currently list "equal opportunity" as the injustice, but I think you are actually trying to help create equal opportunities through your project, right?

Our problem and solution tree tool and compassionate insight tool can help you think about how to write your compassionate insight in a way that will help clarify the injustice you want to change, and the root cause your project is addressing. We're happy to help if you have questions -- so excited to see how this project goes and support your amazing work!  

Adrian B. Peace First Staff
9 February 2018 11:22

Hi Tara,

Thanks so much for posting this project! I'm excited you're invested in making sure that autistic children have what they need to stay safe and alive. Is there something that motivated you to work on this specific issue?

I did some reading on this topic, and was astounded to find that autistic children ages 5-7 drown at a rate 160 times the amount of non-autistic children the same age. (https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/kids-with-autism-have-a-higher-risk-of-drowning-its-time-we-do-something-about-it/article35188828/) That's a huge and terrible statistic, and this project has the potential to save lives.

One thing that we ask folks to do as part of the peacemaking process is to work towards understanding this injustice more deeply. If you go to the project dashboard, you'll see tools and resources for just that. We ask that people talk to folks who are directly affected by the injustice (autistic children/adults), people who perpetuate the injustice (let's think more about what groups may fall in this category), and people who are already working to solve the injustice (autistic self-advocacy groups and, specifically, groups teaching autistic people and children to swim). This will help you get to the root cause of why this is happening--and then help you design a plan that will address root causes.

Why do you think it is that autistic children drown at such a high rate? Why do each of these groups think it is the case?

Right now, your injustice is identified as "equal opportunity," but your solution is also listed as "equal opportunity." Did you mean something different by one of these pieces? When you have answers to these questions, it will help inform your project. :)

Here are some awesome advocacy organizations led by autistic people:
Autistic Self-Advocacy Network: http://autisticadvocacy.org/2011/03/faq-on-proposed-icd-9-cm-wandering-code/
The Thinking Person's Guide to Autism: http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/2011/04/interview-with-carol-greenburg-autism.html http://www.thinkingautismguide.com/2013/05/on-sad-end-to-search-for-mikaela-lynch.html
Autism Women's Network: https://autismwomensnetwork.org/
AASPIRE: Academic Autism Spectrum Partnership in Research and Education https://aaspire.org/
And a great list of autistic activists: http://nosmag.org/50-autistic-people-you-should-know/

I also found some interesting articles on swimming and child wandering--some of them mention other organizations that offer accessible swimming lessons:

I hope that some of these resources help! Once you've done a bit more research, I think that the specific injustice you're addressing will become clearer. I'd love to support you in thinking through that process when you get to that point! Please let me know if you have any questions, or we can support you in any other way. I'm so excited to see where this project goes!


Fish S. Peace First Staff
10 January 2018 12:08

Tara, thanks for posting your project! (And for submitting a mini-grant -- Kelsey from out team will be in touch soon.) I'm really excited to see you submit this to the Challenge.

As you know, we're big fans of your work. We hope you'll share more about the inspiration behind it, as well as some photos! One thing I really was impressed by was your focus on bringing people together -- volunteers and swimmers -- across lines of difference, and building community among people who might not otherwise have gotten to know each other. (And of course, teaching swimming and safety skills to students that need them is very important as well!)

What are your next steps for this spring? Other than the mini-grant, how can we help you?  

Jenna G.
1 August 2018 13:41

Hi Tara!

Jenna here--I'm a member of the Peace First team, and I wanted to let you know that I really like your project, it is incredible that you were able to use your own passion and love for swimming and your family and use it to impact so many people's lives. It is great that your project helped a lot of children and families while educating many more! I hope that you'll submit an application to tell your story at the first-ever Peace First Summit on 9/16!

Applications are due today, August 1--you should have more information in your email inbox. Here's the application link: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSd6X9fTrSTC6PoXjLpVUtNlJgZHbd5QdB6-hgxlC-d7DBlK_g/viewform Please let me know if you have any questions--I hope you'll apply!

Jenna :)