Nadia Azizabadi: From Zero to Hero
Nadia's passion for swimming and helping others in the community is making a difference both in and out of the water
Growing up in a landlocked city in Iran, Nadia Azizabadi had never been to the open ocean and at the age of 28, she couldn’t swim. In fact, the concept of swimming was entirely foreign, but after migrating to Malaysia, Nadia started swimming lessons and gained confidence, enjoyment and peace in the water.
When her husband received a mechanical engineering scholarship to attend the University of Tasmania, Nadia planned on continuing to pursue her new found watery love, but felt like she was starting from the beginning again.
“When we arrived in Tasmania four years ago we knew no one,” explains Nadia. “Everything was foreign. We were surrounded by water and everyone else could swim proficiently. There was no program to teach an adult immigrant in a simple language how to improve their skills, so I decided to create what didn’t exist. In June of 2017, I launched From Zero to Hero, a program where adult immigrants learn how to swim step by step and ultimately become water-sport team members.”
Today, Nadia is a qualified swim instructor who recently completed her scuba diving masters in Cairns.
In March 2018, Nadia partnered with Migrant Resource Centre Tasmania to deliver the Multicultural Youth (MY) Swim to Sport program, funded under the Healthy Tasmania Community Innovations Grants. The program supports young people from migrant and refugee backgrounds learn to swim and become involved in water sports and local swimming clubs. Twenty people aged 15 to 25 years completed the first 15 week program with Nadia.
MY Swim to Sport is a program suitable for all levels, from beginners wanting to learn to swim through to those wanting to refine their swimming ability, with classes taking place every Friday at the Hobart Aquatic Centre.
“My students come from Nepal, Afghanistan, Sudan, and elsewhere,” says Nadia. “Many of them were afraid of putting their face in the water at the first session because water can be very frightening. To see them overcome their fears, develop new skills and become part of a new community is so rewarding.”
Nadia begins gently with her students, gradually introducing new skills as each participant is ready. In the final three weeks they select a water sport they might like to pursue. Graduates have gone on to join the local underwater hockey team and one is training to become a lifeguard.
“I’m so proud of them,” smiles Nadia. “Learning to swim brings so much more than just a new skill. For me, being part of the underwater hockey and underwater rugby community is like being part of a family. New friendships grow and connections are made. Learning to swim allows us to be part of the Australian lifestyle, which is very much based around beaches, water sports and outdoor living.”
When Nadia isn’t in the pool teaching students how to blow bubbles, she works as an interpreter in the local hospital and loves jogging through Hobart’s Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. She is one of the few Persian National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAATI) interpreters in Tasmania, a highly valued skill. The water, however, is her greatest passion.
“When I talk to my family about what I do here in Australia they are often a bit confused,” laughs Nadia. “In my home country this is not really part of our lifestyle. When we go to the beach men and women are separated. It feels very free and satisfying to do what I love here.”
“My greatest joy is seeing my students overcome their fears. I know what it’s like to hold onto the wall and refuse to let go as an adult. My students inspire me – they are the heroes of their yesterday.”
Find out more about From Zero to Hero.
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