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Aleksandra Popov – “I feel happy in the water”

In November 2020, the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation began supporting young swimmer Aleksandra Popov as part of a partnership with the Halivik Sports Association for the “Stay Safe” project in Novi Sad, Serbia.

The story of young Aleksandra is rare and inspirational and is testament to the educational and therapeutic strength of the water: since the age of 7, she has succeeded in overcoming most of her symptoms of autism thanks to water sports and learning how to swim, using the “Halliwick” method recommended by her instructor Mr Igor Bežanović. She has developed enough ease in the water and communication skills to be able to share her knowledge and experience.

The Foundation’s support made it possible to train Aleksandra to become a water safety educator.
 
Interviewed recently following this training, the young Aleksandra (who is now 15 years old) tells us more about her story, her working method and her motivation:

“Lately, I have been swimming in the Danube and practicing water safety. We practice rescuing other people and the techniques to help people in need.”
“I think I started swimming when I was 3 and a half. I feel happy and in the right place when surrounded by water.”
“My coach taught me how to train other kids to swim safely.  With this experience, I learned how to be a strong, capable, and useful person.”

When asked about the most important aspects of water safety, Aleksandra responded by saying that “parents should never let their kids swim out of sight, and people should always assess their abilities”.
When asked about her favourite sport, she replied: “swimming and water sports. Because I just feel great in the water.”
 
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The “Halliwick” method is a genuine method of “learning” about water, invented by James McMillan (an engineer of hydrodynamics) in London in 1949 when he offered his services to the Halliwick School for disabled girls. James McMillan expanded his knowledge to neurophysiology to understand how the body moved in the water, allowing one to familiarise himself with the water and maintain his balance using his method, gaining freedom of movement and autonomy in the water.

The Halivik Sports Association, represented by Mr Bežanović and whose philosophy finds its roots in this method, oversees water and sports activities for young individuals. It places focus on teaching non-swimmers aged between 3 and 7, and its vision is to educate any individual, including those with a disability which can be overcome with determination and an appropriate teaching style.

The Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation would like to thank the Novak Djokovic Foundation, a partner for several years in Serbia and a valuable local relay within the framework of this support of young Aleksandra Popov.