ayan Dhamuke, 12, doesn’t get to swim a lot, unlike her brothers. During the past summer, she had to visit the pool at 5 a.m. so that she would have the privacy she needed to enjoy the water while still adhering to her family’s cultural and religious beliefs.
To better accommodate girls like Dhamuke, the downtown St. Paul YMCA, in partnership with the St. Paul Police Department, has started a swim group for Somali-American girls. The group, which began in October, is serving as an outlet for girls ages 5 to 17 to learn the basics of swimming..
One evening last week, the din of girls’ laughter and splashes filled the windowless, humid pool room of the St. Paul downtown YMCA.
“Anybody want to try jumping in one more time?” asked an instructor.
“Me! Me! Me!” shouted a chorus of eager beginners, who wore mostly shirts and pants with their heads uncovered.
The group of about 25 girls, who were quiet and reserved earlier in the evening, seemed to come alive while in the water. With each jump, kick and splash, their confidence appeared to grow.