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World Restart a Heart Day is acknowledged each year on 16 October. This year, the NSRI’s National Team Leader of Water Safety, Eoudia Erasmus, commemorated the day in a special way.

It was a Monday morning Eoudia Erasmus will never forget. Work colleague Marie Sym asked, ‘Did you hear about the child that nearly drowned in Ceres over the weekend? A group of other children saved her life.’ Eoudia found out that the group of boys who saved the child’s life had attended a water safety workshop a couple of years prior, and they had remembered what she had taught them. “If you see someone isn’t breathing, don’t run away. Start CPR!”

The little girl, Donnalee Oerson, had been swimming in a farm dam, when she stepped into an inlet ditch and disappeared under the water. Her friends had managed to get her out of the water, and then started screaming for help. This was when Waylan Malan (16), Gabriel Filander (13), Keanen Jansen (18) and Wesley Storm (10) rushed to her aid. They took turns to administer CPR, and after about three minutes the little girl gasped for air. They had saved her life.

What is Restart a Heart Day all about?

Restart a Heart Day was founded by the European Resuscitation Council with the support of the European parliament and takes place on 16 October every year. In 2021, the focus is on survivors with the hashtag #CPRSavedMyLife. The aim of the campaign is to send out the message that anyone can learn CPR and save a life. (Visit the European Resuscitation Council’s website at for more information.)

Donnalee nearly lost her life three years ago and, in acknowledgement of the #CPRSavedMyLife campaign, Eoudia went back to the school in Ceres to teach Donnalee how to perform CPR herself, so she has the skills to save a life should she ever need to one day.

For Eoudia, Donnalee’s story remains the highlight of her career. Its poignancy speaks to the dedication of Eoudia and her team of water-safety instructors. Drowning is silent, and by empowering children and young adults in rural communities to be able to act quickly when they see someone in trouble, tragedy can be averted. Drowning deaths affect families and the wider community in far-reaching ways, especially if breadwinners in a family lose their lives to drowning. It is a major cause of accidental death in South Africa, and yet is preventable.

Restart a Heart Week Donnalee

NSRI’s Water Safety programme

“It’s essential to teach children to be safe around water. When we teach them safety rules, they are less likely to put themselves in dangerous situations and, should one arise, they will be able to handle it,” Eoudia explains. “Learning water-safety and peer-rescue skills such as CPR and basic rescue techniques from a young age can help save a life! Always remember, drowning is silent.”

Since the programme started in 2006, the NSRI’s water-safety message has reached more than 3 million people. Currently, the NSRI has 21 full-time instructors who visit schools and clubs around the country and teach people about water safety. Lessons are offered for free, are presented in a fun and interactive way, are age-appropriate and delivered in the mother tongue of the learners.

Visit our donations page to donate towards water safety lessons. It costs just R10 per person, so even a small donation will make a difference.

Also read...

NSRI’s Water Safety programme – still growing strong

NSRI call to action - “it's time to teach our children water safety at school”

Department of Tourism aids water safety with the donation of 72 Pink Rescue Buoys

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