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We caught up with Drowning Prevention Manager Andrew Ingram to find out how the Survival Swimming Centre project is faring.

The first Survival Swimming Centre (SSC 1) at Meiring Primary has already held over 2 000 lessons. The NSRI team celebrated its official opening recently, where the first 11 children were awarded certificates for completing the course and learning the four core Survival Swimming skills.

“This means that they have been taught breath control, orientation, floating, and how to move through water for five metres,” says NSRI Drowning Prevention Manager, Andrew Ingram.

Housed in a donated shipping container, the centre offers an innovative “lock-up-and-go” solution for the lack of safe bodies of water in which to teach basic swimming skills. The container can be moved from place to place and is also secure, so children can’t accidentally wander into the water.

Like most innovations, the first centre came with some unforeseen challenges. The first has been maintaining exceptional water quality. Luckily Fluidra, a pools and spa manufacturing company, came onboard and donated a circulation and filtration system that Andrew can monitor from an app on his phone.

“I have amazing back-up from two members of their staff, who I am in constant contact with,” Andrew says. “The Fluidra Fundacio Foundation has now also donated funds for the heat pumps to cover the first Survival Swimming Centre and the next one we build. This solves one of the major issues that we are facing as winter starts. The water temp is dropping to the high teens as the air temp drops to single digits. It’s just too cold for instructors to spend hours in the water, and even for the children to be in for 15 to 20 minutes for their lessons.”

The second challenge was making sure that the children arrived at the centre without any delays.

“Principal Brenton Cupido and the Meiring Primary School staff’s buy-in has been absolutely amazing,” Andrew enthuses. “They have given us two assistant teachers who make sure that the children get to and from the pool on time. We hadn’t worked out the ‘military precision’ that was needed and that was where Mr Cupido’s experience came in. So Petro Meyer and the two part-time instructors can stay in the pool, and the children are brought to them.”

The third challenge that the team faced was that the children didn’t have swimming towels and costumes. Andrew and his team have arranged towels and are looking at ways to get costumes for the kids.

“You come up with a really great idea and apart from just getting it operational, there’s still a bunch of stuff on the side that needs a lot of attention to make sure that the entire thing works,” Andrew says with a laugh.

The second Survival Swimming Centre is already being built, and a third is in the pipeline. The plan is to place one in KwaZulu-Natal and the other in the Eastern Cape, as both provinces have high drowning statistics.

“The next one has just arrived in the yard,” Andrew says. “The container has been donated by Evergreen and has been put into Dibana Logistics’ yard which is five minutes away from our office. Dibana has let us use their yard and their electricity for free, and they move the completed Survival Swimming centre when and where needed – for free! All of the donors in this operation and the first have been phenomenal, giving up huge amounts of time and expertise for free. Without all of this stuff this project would be hundreds of thousands of rand more than it is. We’ve been spared these expenses because all of these people believe in what we’re doing and are prepared to help us, which is so special.”

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