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Jason Mohammad honours the Black Swimming Association with National Lottery Award

14th December 2022

TV sports presenter Jason Mohammad made a big splash in Cardiff yesterday as he officially crowned a swimming and water safety education project the 2022 National Lottery UK Project of the Year.

Jason Mohammad holding trophy with two members of the Black Swimming Association
Jason Mohammad visits the Black Swimming Association

Cardiff-born presenter Mohammad, who fronts some of the UK's biggest TV sports programmes, visited the swimming pool at the STAR Hub in the Tremorfa area of the Welsh capital (Tuesday December 13th 2pm-4pm) where he officially presented the Award on behalf of The National Lottery to representatives of the Black Swimming Association (BSA).

Co-founded by Welsh woman, Seren Jones, who also hails from Cardiff, the BSA aims to encourage more people in African, Caribbean, and Asian communities to engage in swimming and water safety education. They work in collaboration with communities, national governing bodies, government agencies, lifesaving authorities and aquatic brands in Wales and throughout the UK.

Jason Mohammad celebrates with the Black Swimming Association
Jason Mohammad celebrates with the Black Swimming Association

The BSA beat off stiff competition from more than 1300 organisations to reach the public voting stage in this year’s National Lottery Awards, which celebrate the inspirational people and projects who do extraordinary things with the help of National Lottery funding.

The project emerged as the UK-wide winner following the public vote which was held in October. They were up against 16 other finalists from across the UK competing in the four-week vote. They now receive the £5,000 cash prize as well as an iconic National Lottery Awards trophy.

Black Swimming Association members holding their National Lottery Award
Seren and Leslie Ann from the Black Swimming Association with their National Lottery Award

Official participation figures from Sport England show that amongst African, Caribbean, and Asian communities: 95% of Black Adults; 80% of Black Children; 93% of Asian Adults; and 78% Asian Children do not swim in England. And, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the risk of drowning is higher amongst minority ethnic communities.

The BSA is the first organisation working with these communities to promote water safety, drowning prevention and the benefits of aquatics through water familiarisation and other eclectic programmes. After success in England, the BSA is currently defining the picture in Wales and are working to ensure they can do targeted interventions to prevent these communities being at high risk of drowning or near drowning incidents.

Working closely with strategic aquatic, water safety and education partners across the UK, the BSA has created a strong partnership with National Lottery funding distributor Sport Wales, in partnership with Swim Wales, to make swimming and other aquatic sports more ethnically diverse and inclusive. This is the first time a project has focused on this issue in Wales. The partnership, which is supported by National Lottery funding, includes a community engagement element as well as the sharing and development of ground-breaking research, and the implementation of sustainable community led programmes.

Co-founder Seren Jones remembers being petrified of water as a child. Her parents were determined she and her siblings would have lessons, and she went on to compete at elite level with City of Cardiff Swimming Club and even won a swimming scholarship to a top division two American University. According to 28-year-old Seren, swimming is the only sport that can save lives and is a gateway to safe participation in aquatic sports and activities, and a potential career area.

Presenting the BSA with their award, TV and Radio Presenter, Jason Mohammad, said: “I’m delighted to present the BSA with this well-deserved award. I learned to swim in the city of Cardiff too, at the Western Leisure Centre in Ely. Those lessons allowed me to be confident in the water and gave me the chance to compete in swimming galas.

This project is playing a vital part in making people from all backgrounds feel welcome and safe in the water. It’s truly humbling to see projects like this doing extraordinary things with funding and they should be extremely proud of their efforts.”

Swimmers in pool as part of Black Swimming Association session
Seren teaching during a swimming session

Ecstatic to be announced as winners, Seren Jones said: “We are absolutely thrilled to have won the award. I never thought when we set up this charity two and a half years ago that we would win a national award. I would like to thank everyone who voted for us.”

“This is more than just a learn to swim programme. It’s about knowing how to be safe in and around the water. It’s about overcoming emotional and mental hurdles that perhaps have existed in generations of different families. It’s also about getting people to feel empowered to use the aquatic centres and facilities in their local areas.”

Seren, who swam competitively before retiring in 2016, added: “The National Lottery’s support has played a vital role in expanding the reach of this project to Wales. I’m so proud of what we have achieved so far. It’s fantastic to get this recognition and it inspires us to keep going and wanting more.”

Exemplifying the need for the project, BSA co-founder, Alice Dearing, made history in Tokyo last year when she became the first black female swimmer to ever represent Team GB at an Olympics.

This project is a huge step towards getting more people from ethnically diverse backgrounds engaged in aquatics and all it has to offer,” said the 25-year-old who is of Ghanaian and English heritage. The fact that the public voted for us makes winning this award all the more special. It's fantastic to get this recognition and it inspires us to keep going and wanting more.

Alice Dearing, BSA co-founder

Thanks to National Lottery players, more than £30 million goes to good causes across the UK every week, which in turn helps projects like the Black Swimming Association continue to carry out incredible work in their communities. Learn more about The National Lottery Awards here.