Swim lessons joy for Eva and family

From left, Smile for Life chief executive Paula Gascoigne, Eva Pienaar and swimming teacher Phil Prendergast. Picture by RusbyMedia
From left, Smile for Life chief executive Paula Gascoigne, Eva Pienaar and swimming teacher Phil Prendergast. Picture by RusbyMedia

A girl who was born with a long list of conditions and disabilities has found a new lease of life after a charity bought her swimming lessons.

Eva Pienaar has Pierre-Robin Syndrome, which caused her to be born with a set-back jaw, a hole in her heart and severe hearing difficulties and communication problems, among other issues.

Eva Pienaar is enjoying swimming lessons that have been paid for by Smile For Life Children's Charity. Picture by RusbyMedia

Eva Pienaar is enjoying swimming lessons that have been paid for by Smile For Life Children's Charity. Picture by RusbyMedia

As a result, the seven-year-old has undergone multiple surgeries and spent a lot of time in hospital seeing specialists.

She has always struggled with confidence, so her mum Kerry took it upon herself to find an activity to bring her out of her shell.

After being told by Eva that she wanted to try swimming, Kerry contacted the Gosforth-based Smile For Life Children’s Charity, which offered to fund six months of lessons for the Holystone Primary School pupil.

Kerry, from West Allotment, said: “I was desperate to find something active for her to do and she mentioned that she’d like to try out swimming.

“I am so grateful to Smile For Life for supporting us and paying for the lessons with Splash In Swim School – they’ve made such a difference.

“Eva has anxiety issues, so finding something that she enjoys and is able to do has been absolutely life-changing for her.

“Being able to do something that her peers can do has given her so much more confidence and happiness.”

Pierre-Robin Syndrome, also known as Pierre Robin Sequence, is very rare and often results in a cleft palate and a small lower jaw that causes throat and breathing difficulties, though symptoms can vary.

After mum-of-two Kerry applied successfully to the charity, Smile For Life’s chief executive Paula Gascoigne recently went along to watch one of Eva’s lessons at Beacon Hill School in Wallsend.

Paula said: “As a charity we get a lot of different requests, with many of these being for equipment to help with a child’s communication and things like that, but this was a very different request to give Eva a skill that will last her a lifetime.

“It is also about rehabilitation as she has spent so much time in hospital and so this will help her build confidence and mix with her peers.

“We hope that learning to swim will help make her feel good about herself.

“This is something that will be with her for the rest of her life and will enable her to enjoy lots of wonderful time in the swimming pool with friends and family.”

Smile For Life Children’s Charity aims to make a real difference to the lives of disadvantaged and disabled children and young adults.

Through its Challenge Days, work-experience programme, provision of specialist equipment and range of experiences, it has assisted more than 1,000 children in the North East since it began in 2008.

For more information about the charity, call 0191 2844166 or go to www.smileforlife.org.uk