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The Survival Swimming programme is going from strength to strength. Find out more about a couple of the initiative’s key sponsors, as well as what’s planned for the next few months.

The Balwin Foundation

The NSRI has a proud history of partnering with foundations, trusts and companies to ensure the success of various educational and life-saving projects. Earlier this year, Balwin Properties CEO Steve Brookes expressed his wish for Balwin to save lives, setting a target of teaching at least 1 000 people to swim. The project kicked off with Balwin staff in Johannesburg, and soon after the KwaZulu-Natal as well as the Cape.

“To reach the target of 1 000 swim-capable people, the Balwin Foundation is working with various NPOs to provideswimming lessons in Helderberg and Khayelitsha in the Cape , as well as the South Coast/Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, Mamelodi, Midrand and Johannesburg South,” says Krista Lazzari, Relationship Manager of Trusts and Foundations for the NSRI. “The Balwin Foundation has been donating to the NSRI since 2018 and in that time we have received funding every year to further our mission of saving lives on South African waters. These donations were made with a donation sourced from the proceeds of a yearly charity walk.”

Apart from general contributions, in September 2021 the Balwin Foundation specifically committed to training 200 children in the Western Cape on how to survive in an emergency situation in water. The NSRI will be helping to fulfill this commitment by teaching children Survival Swimming.

“NSRI has made an excellent start in George as well as in Retreat by teaching lessons thus far to 90 children,” Krista says.

The National Lotteries Commission

The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) has been supporting the NSRI since 2008 and have contributed substantially over the years in grants to fund new rescue vessels and vehicles.

“Survival Swimming is a new project for NSRI so usually grants from NLC went to other projects,” says the NSRI’s National Government and SOE Relationship Manager, Liza Mostert. “When the NLC’s funding criteria changed, our application was declined for the first time because we didn’t fit their new criteria at all.”

Liza was determined to find a way around this and started to investigate the “Miscellaneous” section of the new criteria.

“Miscellaneous projects aim to address emergency situations, disasters and catastrophic events. So that is why I approached them for our School Education Programme and the Survival Swimming programme as both of these fit the bill,” she recalls.

“Survival Swimming is a new programme as it was launched in November 2019, and was only really intended to be rolled out in 2020. Covid caught us all off guard and as a fundraiser it was a serious challenge to secure funding for a new programme. The NLC funding has helped us to get this programme off the ground and to secure swimming pools and sites across South Africa. With the support from NLC we now have stats that we can approach new possible donors with.”

Upcoming plans

According to Drowning Prevention Coordinator Yaseen Gamiet, the Sea Point Pop-Up Survival Swimming Squad completed their last session on 11 December and will re-open in January next year.

“Lessons have grown in popularity due to the pool’s management kindly allowing the NSRI to continue to teach pop-up classes on Saturdays, so much so that students are returning weekly to attend one or more lessons,” Yaseen says.

Pop-Up Survival Swimming lessons will continue at the Strandfontein Pavilion through most of December, save for the public holidays and the week between Christmas and New Year. Yaseen explains that this is due to the number of people on beaches, making safe lessons a bit more tricky.

“The start times of lessons are provisionally planned for 10am on the days that we are there. Communications will be posted on our social media channels with real-time updates of start and end times as well as teaching locations of the Pop-Ups. We’ll have Hanover Park pool running for most of December except for the public holidays, and will reopen in the first week of January,” Yaseen says.

“The programme has grown considerably since inception and we will be launching and actively growing our locations in the Gauteng area in partnership with the swim school, its instructors and the kind assistance of Cecile who runs The Swim School in Florida, Roodepoort. The Survival Swimming programme launches in Gauteng have been stifled slightly by the emergence of a 4th wave of Covid infections; however both The Swim School and NSRI envision a smooth launch very early in January 2022.”

In KZN, the NSRI has partnered with the Municipality of Ethekwini’s Sport Development And Recreation Department, who have made over 20 pools available for the launch of the free Survival Swimming lessons. The Department of Sport and Recreation has also shown support for what the free lessons try to achieve.

“The Survival Swimming lessons at Retreat Pool suffered minor setbacks, at which time Mr Harold Chapman donated the use of his show pool at his company premises (Pool Care Clinic) in Plumstead to allow us to continue our lessons,” Yaseen says. “Mr Chapman, a long time supporter of the NSRI and owner of a pool care and maintenance store, ensured we had a clean and safe place to continue our child and adult lessons. He has also committed to allowing access for the training of all Survival Swimming instructors and free Survival Swimming lessons, as and when the Drowning Prevention Department needs a teaching location. We thank Mr Chapman most sincerely for donating his pool and allowing students access every day, which has helped 18 students to complete the Survival Swimming Programme that the NSRI launched in partnership with the Steenberg Community Forum.”

If you are able to swim, have a clear criminal record and would like to volunteer for NSRI’s Survival Swimming Programme please email survivalswimming@searescue.org.za or contact Yaseen at NSRI Head Office, Cape Town on 021 434 4011.

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