November 29, 2023

Swimming Through Generations: A Journey of Resilience and Empowerment

By Demetris Chambliss

My journey as a swim instructor is deeply rooted in my family’s passion for aquatics. Long before I was born, the love for water and the importance of swimming ran in my family’s veins. My family members were all avid swimmers, and they instilled in me a profound respect for the water from a young age.

Demetris, on the right, is seen here with his mother Eerin Taylor.

Growing up in New Orleans, I was acutely aware of the unique relationship our city had with water. While the Mississippi River flowed majestically through our midst, many of our residents, surprisingly, didn’t know how to swim. It wasn’t a priority for them. I couldn’t help but wonder why.

Then, in 2005, Hurricane Katrina struck our beloved city with devastating force. It was a wake-up call for New Orleans in more ways than one. The flooding that followed exposed the vulnerabilities of a community surrounded by water, yet lacking the essential skill of swimming. It was a sobering realization for our city.

In the aftermath of Katrina, my family felt a renewed sense of purpose. We were determined to contribute to the recovery of our city by addressing a fundamental need—reconnecting people with their swimming abilities and helping them rediscover the joy and confidence that comes from being at ease in the water. It was a mission rooted in my family’s dedication and the newfound urgency of our community.

Swimming, I’ve come to believe, is a skill embedded in us from the womb. We all possess a natural affinity for the water, but sometimes, due to traumatic experiences, generational fears, or simply the lack of opportunities to use our abilities, we lose that connection.

Swim safety is something that runs in the family for Demetris Chambliss, seen her lifeguarding with his grandmother Daisy Taylor.

As a swim instructor, I’ve come to understand that teaching swimming is about more than just strokes and techniques. It’s about reawakening that skill, rebuilding confidence, and addressing the fears and traumas that may have caused its suppression while imparting resilience and survival skills. Through my family’s dedication and the lessons learned from Katrina, I strive to empower my students not just in the water but in life.