This month, we partnered with Fitness Trainer and Vuori Collaborator, Paul Wright, to honor a nonprofit that’s close to his heart called Swim Up Hill. We sat down with Paul and Swim Up Hill Founder, Jamal Hill, to learn more about this inspiring organization and how we can all get involved.
For Jamal Hill, realizing his dream of representing Team USA in Paralympic Swimming in 2018 was just the beginning. “While I was on the podium, I realized that being a champion had to mean more than just being the guy with gold. A true champion stands for more than just themselves,” he explains.
The LA native felt called to increase awareness for swimming in his hometown—focusing on low-to-middle-income communities that continue to be affected by disproportionately high drowning rates. He incorporated trauma healing techniques into a swim curriculum that is a breakthrough for people who previously identified as “aqua-phobic.”
Today, Swim Up Hill Organization is a social justice driven 501(c)(3) non-profit organization reaching people around the world with educational resources and support. Vuori collaborator Paul Wright and Jamal talk about the global impact of Swim Up Hill’s unique approach to swim education—and how the work is only just getting started.
Why is it important to you to support this foundation?
I used to swim myself so it's important to me that they provide resources that not only teach young kids from urban communities how to swim but develop them away from the pool as well, which can motivate them to see their potential in the sport! Plus, teaching the art of swimming, eliminates many more people from drowning every year.
Anything else you would love to share or for people to know and keep in mind over the course of this month or about this foundation?
Everyone is encouraged to come to our ACTV Club IRL Giveback event, but if you can’t, you can make a donation directly to the foundation. You’ll be saving a life AND can lead to the growth of the sport of swimming in different communities!
How did you connect with Paul, our Vuori ACTV Club Trainer and Collaborator?
Paul reached out to me via our social media platforms @swimuphilldotorg. He had a history in swimming and a passion for community enrichment. Once he shared with me how he wanted to get involved with our movement, I invited him to a private training session with my Pro Swimming Team. His commitment to learning and giving his best are principles that shape the highest caliber of people.
What is the mission behind Swim Up Hill?
The mission of Swim Up Hill is to teach 1,000,000 people how to swim annually across the globe by the 2028 Olympic & Paralympic Games
Was there a story or experience that motivated you to start Swim Up Hill?
In 2018 I won my first national swimming title. While I was on the podium I realized that being a champion had to mean more than just being the guy with gold. A true champion stands for more than just themselves. With my background of over a decade as a lifeguard and the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of people drown every year, I committed to using my platform to teach the world to swim and end drowning.
What has it been like to support swim programs and education in marginalized communities?
It’s been an eye-opening experience. So few realize the correlation between a lack of swim education and poverty. In my home of Southern California, four-million people live in poverty... Most people are unaware of this fact and the devastating yet undeniable connection between poverty and lack of knowledge on how to swim. According to a study by USA Swimming, this inequality prevents 42% of the Southern California population from accessing the much-needed basic swimming skills vital for personal safety and community underwriting. The lack of equity is further reflected in the fact that drowning in minority communities is three times more likely than drowning accidents in more affluent areas. The focus of The Swim Up Hill Foundation is to teach how we can use education to prevent deaths due to drowning caused by economic inequalities beyond anyone's control. We believe that the people have the potential to not only sustain but elevate their own communities...
They just need to be met with a helping hand where they currently are...
How has Swim Up Hill impacted your life or shifted your perspective?
I had the privilege of learning to swim as a baby. So swimming has always been an integral and active part of my life. The greatest perspective shift I’ve had is truly how many generations of communities have been systemically disenfranchised and excluded from swim education, be it societal or ethical influence.
What's your favorite moment or experience working with Swim Up Hill?
One of my favorite experiences is teaching two survivors of hurricane Katrina
But the most exciting moment has to be our current 100-school tour to impact 25,000 SoCal students with swim education in 2023. You can read more about that here.
What would you like for people to know more about Swim Up Hill?
I’d like people to know that they can rely on us to do the work, provide the support, and create the changes they care about, but may not have time to actually do themselves. By donating to our movement they are changing the world. During our 2023 Tour, for example, people may not be able to visit the school with our team, but they can sponsor thousands of students to receive swim lessons, books, and extracurricular mentorship for $1,500per school
What is your hope for the future of Swim Up Hill?
My hope is that the current mission of Swim Up Hill is only the “warm-up.” As our organization grows past the year 2028, I hope we come to embody the voice and agency of other sectors critical to a better human experience on Earth.
How can people best get involved with and support your foundation?
Currently, the best way to get involved is to sponsor schools during our 2023 Tour to 100 Elementary Schools. We also offer opportunities to receive programming aid for existing and budding organizations. Beyond that… we all know someone who doesn’t know how to swim. When you think of that person in your life, introduce them to our movement. It will change their life for the better.