Categorized | National News

Eleven Year Old Swims to raise funds for AIDS/HIV

A sixth grade student of Xavier’s Lower School Monday swam to raise awareness and funds for Bahamians under the age of 18 years affected by AIDS/HIV.

Eleven year old Leyla Knowles Xavier’s Student of the Year, took on the feat of swimming 100 laps in the 15-20 yard pool accompanied by some of her swimming peers supporting her,  who also swam 50 laps alongside her.

As Junkanoo music blasted through the speakers while students screamed in excitement, all while wearing red to honour the occasion, The Bahama Journal was able to speak with the young athlete about her endeavours.

“I was talking with my Mom and told her that  we have to do a project for my Student of the year portfolio and I was wondering if I could do something with the AIDS Foundation.

“We were talking about how I can mix my talent with something I wanted to do.  So, I decided I wanted to swim 100 laps to raise money for the AIDS Foundation,” Leyla said immediately after completing her laps.

She  said, “Well, I am just glad to have the encouragement of my friends and the encouragement of the HIV/AIDS Foundation. I am glad I can help the people that are affected by it.”

The eleven year old also stated that she would like to swim for other charitable causes in the future as she plans to not make this her last positive effort.

A very proud Father, Dr. Sean Knowles, a psychiatrist, shared with The Journal his surprise when his daughter approached him about the Swim-A-Thon.

“One day she said to us, “Well, why don’t I just do a swim-a-thon to raise money to help those affected by HIV,” Dr. Knowles said.

“I then said, ‘Wow, okay, great’, because she has done swim-a-thon’s before; the reason being was to collect funds to represent The Bahamas as a swimming ambassador at the Goodwill Games.

“My wife and I were just blown away by it and we supported her,” Dr. Knowles told The Journal.

Dr. Knowles having a very special interest in AIDS/HIV,  approached Lady Camille Barnett about his daughter’s idea and started planning for the inaugural event, which took just under two months to organize.

“There are much needed supplies for adolescent children affected by this virus and disease,” Dr. Knowles said.


Lady Barnett said,“the  work that we do with young people is very costly and it’s something we cannot stop.  We have to buy food, we buy them clothing, textbooks for school, and we take them to the Dentist, the Eye Doctor; whatever they need.

“It’s an holistic program that provides complete support for these kids and you need lots of money to do that.  We average a cost of about two thousand dollars a year per child and we have eighty four kids.

“This is a wonderful and lovely idea of young people doing something for others.  I think it’s a way to go in our community; when something is given to us, we have to learn to give back to others,” Lady Barnett imparted.

Also showing their support to Leyla, was Miss Universe Bahamas Yasmin Cooke and Miss World Bahamas Geena Thompson.

Ms. Cooke said, “When I first heard swim-a-thon, I immediately thought, wow.   To use your passion for helping people as Leyla has, I think is so brilliant and I am very happy to be a part of this today.”

Ms. Cooke’s platform is bringing awareness to HIV/AIDS and she was as equally pleased to be invited to share this moment with Leyla.

She continued, “My platform is actually HIV awareness and advocacy and this is why I am here to make sure that I get involved with initiatives such as this and I definitely plan to be more involved in this organization in the future and what my reign will be centered around,” Miss Universe Bahamas confirmed.

Miss World Bahamas, Geena Thompson  said  that what Leyla completed was admirable and incredible and she was impressed with the young swimmer.

She holds the Bahamas record in the 50 meter breast stroke and the Bahamas National Record in the 100m Breast stroke in the 9-10 girls age group.

Leyla is presently working on qualifying for the upcoming Carifta Games in April.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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