Interview: Brittney from ‘The Life Aquatic’


Brittney is a Kinyarwanda-speaking, swimming-lesson-giving Canadian who I met through a friend awhile ago after hearing that she was starting up a business to share her mad swimming skills with others. She’s starting a new 5 week set of lessons on June 1st and weekend lessons as well. All of the details are on the Life Aquatic Facebook page. If you want to learn to swim or have kiddies, get in touch!

When and why did you first come to Rwanda?

I first came to Rwanda at the end of 2008 during a work placement from my university’s Cooperative Education Program. I was currently completing a degree in Neuroscience in Canada, and I came to Gitarama to help design science programs for a new school that was being built for an NGO. After arriving, they informed me that they had lost all the funding and were no longer building the school. After a few months of being soccer coach and school tutor for the children who lived on site, I wanted to do something more related to my degree. I came to Kigali a few months later, and began working as an assistant to the administrator at a school for disadvantaged children and adults. I helped out with the cooperatives, the general operations of the school, and when we lost our Primary Two teacher, began teaching math, science and English to primary two students. I stayed in Rwanda for about 9 months for the first time.

What brought you back to Rwanda?

During my first stay in Rwanda, I met some really great kids. After getting to know them, I began helping them with school fees.  A few friends of mine and I sent two of the boys and two of the girls to boarding school. When back in Canada, I kept in daily to weekly contact with one of the boys whom I now refer to as my little brother (because of complications with adoption). I came back in 2010 for Christmas holiday, and New Year’s celebrations, to spend time with my little brother.

After finishing my degree, I came back to Rwanda in 2012 to run a life skills training program through an NGO that I had started. Once the program finished, I began looking for work to stay and be full time guardian of my little brother. But finding a job was much harder than I had anticipated (even with the ability to speak intermediate Kinyarwanda!), and that is when some very encouraging friends of mine helped me start a business here.

What was that like, starting a business here?

The application process is very straight forward, and much more reasonable than back home. Rwanda is really encouraging entrepreneurs, and there were very few roadblocks. I was assisted at RDB by very helpful and cheery staff, and my official business registration was handed to me no more than 24 hours later!

Can you tell us a bit about your business, Life Aquatic?

Life Aquatic aims to provide quality swim instruction through a unique style of water skills instruction! In combination with university level research on the biomechanics of swimming, my own personal teaching experience, and what I learned through my knowledgeable supervisors in Canada, I have begun a way of teaching swimming which is unique to Rwanda.

Can you give a bit of information on your background in swimming?

I have been swimming for as long as I can remember, and teaching swimming since I was 16. I finished all 12 of the Red Cross swimming lessons by the time I was 11, and then joined competitive swim clubs until I was old enough to start the life-saving and water safety instruction courses. Immediately upon completion of my courses I was hired as a swim instructor in Canada, and have been teaching swimming since 2005.

What makes your swim instruction so different?

I taught at a pool in Canada for over 6 years where the swimming program coordinators had designed a unique instruction program which focused on progressions through balance. The program was based on information gathered from numerous swimming conferences and the practical theories of Ernest Maglischo, a national championship winning swim coach for 38 years and holder of a PhD in exercise physiology. I found the program very effective in achieving balance and reducing drag in swimmers, ultimately facilitating stroke and increasing speed. In university, I took upper level kinesiology courses, through which I studied the biomechanics of stroke, forces acting on a swimmer, and the intricate movements which best propel a swimmer through the water.

I have combined my years of experience in various pools and environments, my studies, and all of my formal training to best assist swimmers through the progressions of swimming acquisition and stroke precision. I adapt my lessons to the individual swimmers, make lessons fun with games, and focus on comfort and movement in the water.

Life Aquatic offers distinct levels with measurable outcomes. Life Aquatic offers report cards which outline progressions, strengths and weaknesses, and help both parents and students monitor how they are doing.

When are classes held and who can join?

Anyone can join! Adults or children can come learn to swim. The youngest age I currently teach is 3 years, however baby-swim classes are something I will look into adding to the curriculum for the future. Younger children and lower level swimmers are put into class sizes of maximum four students, while older children and upper level swimmers are put into class sizes of maximum six students. Classes are mixed, however I have had some requests for female only classes. Female only classes can definitely be offered if there is enough demand.

Private and group lessons are offered anytime! Classes are taught at Nyarutarama Sports Center on Saturdays and Sundays between 10am and 1pm.

How do people sign up? How do they know what level to enroll in?

Visit the Life Aquatic Facebook page for information on programs, camps, lessons, and pricing: www.facebook.com/lifeaquatickigali. Once you have decided which type of lesson is best for you, sign up by contacting me directly at brittney.merryweather@gmail.com.

The best way to accurately enroll in the right level is through an assessment via a private lesson. However, through email, I can also guide a verbal assessment through questions. Often, students can get shuffled after the first lesson to better match students of the same level and comfort in the water.

What is on the horizon for Life Aquatic?

Well, my next step is to start a Water Polo league! I have some water polo balls being sent from Canada, and I would love to teach/play/coach water polo. If registration in lessons is high, I would also like to train more teachers and expand. Ideally, it would be awesome to one day have my own pool where I can also offer water aerobics, swim teams, competitions, and water related trainings including water safety and rescue.

About Kirsty

A Canadian who left in 2001 to wander around the world in search of sun, beautiful views and goat brochettes. Found Kigali in July 2010 and it seems like the perfect fit. I expect to be here until I get kicked out for defiantly walking on the grass while wearing flip flops.