Bring Backstroke to Kenya and Improve Cognitive Skills

Courtesy: Harrison Pire

Swimming has played an essential role in making me who I am—both in and out of the water.  I am 16 and just finished my junior year of high school. Without question, the discipline and will to push past my physical limits has influenced how I attack all challenges facing me, including those I leave behind in the pool.

I have enjoyed spending summers and weekends sharing the tangible benefits of swimming with elementary school age children.  From teaching water safety to backstroke technique, to winning with humility and losing with grace, I gained as much from teaching my students as they learned from me. What I didn’t know initially was how important these lessons would be to the development of the youngest swimmers’ cognitive skills.  One study conducted by the Griffith Institute for Educational Research seems to indicate that children who swim have more advanced cognitive and physical abilities than their non-swimming peers.[1]

While it makes sense that children participating in sports would be more coordinated and be in better physical condition, the young swimmers in the study surprised the researchers by exhibiting significantly better math and verbal skills.[2] This is powerful information that I plan to put to use.  As the summer kicks off, I am dedicating my time outside of work and competitive swimming to the children of Eldoret, Kenya.

Inadequate resources and safe places for play means that sports are in short supply in Eldoret.  Founder of Shoe4Africa, Toby Tanser, is responsible for bringing the first children’s public teaching hospital to East and Central Africa.[3]  Motivated by his achievements and generosity, I co-founded Friends of Eldoret Kenya, a non-profit organization.  Hoping to build on the work Toby has already completed, I am raising funds so Friends of Eldoret can initially construct a soccer pitch and ultimately a swimming pool and immunization center on the hospital grounds.

Bringing sports to the children of Eldoret and surrounding areas in Kenya can have a dramatic effect on their lives.  The correlation established by the Griffith Institute between swimming and cognitive development is but one advantage. Playing sports also translates directly to improvements in physical and mental wellbeing[4] and is also likely to help the children learn in the classroom.[5] Certain studies have even indicated a relationship between sports and a reduction in violent behavior.[6]

You can join with Friends of Eldoret Kenya to bring swimming and soccer to Eldoret. Operated entirely by volunteers, 100% of every dollar donated goes directly to funding the construction of the athletic facilities. Please consider making a donation of any size at

[1] Jacobson, Michael. Aug. 13, 2013. Swim Study Reveals a Smart Pool of Talent. Available at:

[2] The children in the study were up to 15 months ahead of the non-swimming children in terms of cognitive skills and problem solving in math, among other things. Id.


[4] Christina Felfe, Michael Lechner, Andreas Steinmayr. Sports and Child Development. PLoS One. 2016;11(5):e0151729. 10.1371/journal.pone.0151729. Available from:

[5] Bateman, Kristen Diane. March 2018. Moving to Learn: improving attention in the classroom setting for elementary school children. Available from:

[6] Grogg, Mitchell. Jul. 13, 2012. Sports Program Reduces Violence, Study Shows. Available at:


About Harrison Pire

I love everything about swimming and am working to make swimming accessible to children in Kenya.  I am 16 and just finished my junior year of high school.  Last year I co-founded a nonprofit to raise money to build a pool in Eldoret, Kenya, a village where children currently have little access to safe places to play.

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Rick Paine
5 years ago

I am very proud of Harrison and it is an honor to work with him and his family in recruiting. It’s pretty amazing that he can find the time between training and school to start a project like this to help kids in Kenya.

In this day and age where “non-profit” foundations keep much of the money that is raised, Friends of Eldoret Kenya gives 100% of the donations directly to the project.

I’m kicking in $100. Who will join me?