Maverick Citizen

Maverick Citizen: Eastern Cape

History made as Carina Bruwer’s swim of hope raises thousands for music school 

History made as Carina Bruwer’s swim of hope raises thousands for music school 
Carina Bruwer during her marathon swim to cross Nelson Mandela Bay. Picture by Mike Holmes

On 28 February, marathon swimmer Carina Bruwer became the first woman to swim across Nelson Mandela Bay in Port Elizabeth – in support of Muzukidz, an organisation that offers underprivileged children the opportunity to learn to play the violin. 

As Carina Bruwer prepared to start her swim at Pollock Beach in Summerstrand, just before 8am on a rainy morning on 28 February 2020, a group of young violinists from the NGO Muzukidz gathered on the beach to wish her luck. Some played their violins. 

Carina Bruwer sets off at Pollock Beach in Summerstrand on her swim across Nelson Mandela Bay. Picture by Mike Holmes

After she completed her 20km swim, she said: “The kids just gave me so much joy and I entered the water with a sense of purpose. It was not an easy swim – the temperature was a few degrees colder than I would have liked for a long swim like this, with the cool outside temperature and overcast conditions contributing to a consistent drop in body temperature.”  

The children have been very much on Bruwer’s mind since she asked Maria Botha, founder and director at Muzukidz if she could raise funds for them. Muzukidz is based in Cape Town, but recently opened a music school at Settlers Primary School in Port Elizabeth. Here, one teacher teaches 50 children. 

Bruwer said she wanted to use her marathon swimming, temporarily put on hold after having three children, for a good cause. She is the founder of Swim for Hope and her organisation has already raised more than R600,000 for different charities. 

“I felt that marathon swimming was a very selfish thing to do otherwise. I wanted to make a difference.” 

“Maria and I are friends on Facebook and I was inspired by her. I am a performer and not a teacher. The type of intensive music education that the children are getting at Muzukidz is unique. It really gives them a head start. They are taught at European level and get a lot of individual attention. It also boosts brain development and discipline,” she said. 

Bruwer is also a well-known flautist who performs with the internationally renowned instrumental group, Sterling EQ. “I grew up in a very musical family. My brother played the piano so I had to do something else,” she laughed. “When I first started with the flute, I took to it immediately,” she said. 

“I love that Muzukidz encourages the children to have hope. In my own unique, crazy way with my talents, I thought I would love to help them make a difference.” 

Bruwer said she started swimming in a pool when she was studying. “After a year, I could do 3km a day. I was always the music kid. It surprised me when people started saying I am a strong swimmer,” she said. 

She then graduated to open water swimming. “Swimming is a million times better in the sea. There is something about the rhythm. I have always loved the sea. It is my happy place. When you swim, you go into a zone where the world is a much simpler place,” she said. 

Carina taking a break during her marathon swim to cross Nelson Mandela Bay. Picture by Mike Holmes

Over the past 20 years, three male swimmers have crossed the bay. PE swimmer Kyle Main did the 20km crossing from Hobie Beach to Coega on two occasions (first of which was in 2000), while Chris Malan completed a 15km crossing across the bay in 2003 at the age of 15, a route which internationally renowned Lewis Pugh also followed in 2006. 

Bruwer herself has had her share of marathon swims, among her other feats are crossing the English Channel. “This really is the Mount Everest of open water swimming,” she said. She also crossed False Bay. “I have been wanting to do this swim in Nelson Mandela Bay for a very long time,” she said. 

Carina Bruwer completes her swim across Nelson Mandela Bay. Picture by Mike Holmes

Bruwer is an international Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame nominee who was also ranked as one of the World Open Water Swimming Association’s top 50 most “daring, courageous and audacious”, open water swimmers in the world in 2015 and 2018. 

As she swam, her support crew reported dolphins and whales within a few hundred meters and a hammerhead shark. 

“No swim is simple,” she said afterwards. “This was extra intricate due to the complexity of passing shipping lanes, harbours and the high shark population. I could not have dreamed of doing it without all the groundwork and assistance provided by Adventure Swims ZA and the support of the people of PE has been simply heartwarming. It truly is the Friendly City and I would love to swim here again soon!” 

By 1 March 2020, she had already exceeded her goal of raising R25,000 for Muzukidz with a total of R27,000 raised. “I am hoping to get at least R35,000,” she said. “Each additional R1,000 buys another violin, which literally changes at least one life,” she said.

Carina Bruwer after her swim. Picture: Supplied

Botha, who was on the beach with her pupils, cheering Bruwer on, started Muzukidz five years ago in Cape Town. 

“I am a violinist. Learning an instrument teaches concentration and focus. It also awakens all the senses. Because the violin is pressed against the body, the children discover that the vibrations are making them feel happy. My biggest goal is to raise a generation of positive people.” 

She said Muzukidz has become an important vehicle to expose children to music, but also to affect equality of opportunities. They teach children by using the Suzuki method and start children off as young as two years by having them learn to feel the strings of the violin. 

She said their classes also have a very positive impact on children’s academic performance. 

“I ask parents to buy the violin. I don’t believe in free. Sometimes, it takes them as long as two years, but they are all buying,” Botha said. Children are taught at no cost to the families and Muzukidz relies solely on external funding to cover costs for teachers, instruments and teaching material.

The organisation hopes to be able to appoint a second teacher in Port Elizabeth and reach 150 children by mid-2020.

“In this way, it becomes something that they grow up with – and we walk with them every day,” Botha said. “We will teach a child for 15 years of their life. We give them a dream because a child with a dream has a future.” MC


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