As the season draws to a close, Drowning Prevention Project Coordinator Nazreen Adams shares some highlights and gives us an update on her team’s progress.
It’s been a successful season for the NSRI’s Survival Swimming programme. While still in its infancy – it only launched in 2020 – substantial progress has already been made.
As the season draws to a close, Drowning Prevention Project Coordinator Nazreen Adams says that from October 2022 to March 2023, a whopping 11 320 people, both adults and children, have received Survival Swimming lessons from 22 instructors employed by the NSRI, as well as 29 volunteers.
“The Survival Swimming programme is only just starting to float, changing and evolving every day,” says Nazreen. “We want to make it accessible to everyone, especially to those in disadvantaged communities. Our goal was to reach 15 000 people by the end of 2022. We didn’t quite make our target, due to various challenges, however we are proud to have come close, with a total of 13 695 lessons by the end of last year.”
Under the leadership of Drowning Prevention Executive Director Dr Jill Fortuin, the Survival Swimming programme's incredible reach was made possible by realigning the programme, capacitating instructors, investigating the feasibility of alternate Survival Swimming sites (such as dams, lagoons, etc) and the construction and delivery of three new mobile Survival Swimming Centres.
The first centre was piloted in Riebeek Kasteel at Meiring Primary School in early 2022. Based on its success, two more were rolled out: in September 2022, in the rural village of Tombo in the Eastern Cape, and in January 2023, at Duduzile Junior Secondary School on the South Coast, near Port Shepstone.
These mobile centres, the first of their kind in the country, are converted shipping containers that have been fitted with a heated indoor swimming pool, which can be monitored remotely by NSRI management in order to maintain hygiene and safety standards under the supervision of the local Survival Swimming instructors.
Survival Swimming lessons were also conducted at public pools across the Western Cape, Eastern Cape, Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal.
Apart from the deployment of the mobile Survival Swimming Centres, another highlight of the season includes a project piloted at Wilderness Lagoon in the Western Cape on 11 February this year. “The purpose of the project was to introduce Survival Swimming in the area,” says Nazreen. “With the support of NSRI Station 23 (Wilderness) and SANParks, we taught 34 learners from the area in the space of three hours, and there was overwhelming interest from the public to continue these lessons on the lagoon. We took this as confirmation that this initiative can be taken to different bodies of water, should safety protocols be met.”
An official date for the recommencement of Survival Swimming lessons has not yet been set, since much depends on when warmer weather arrives in spring/summer, well as acquiring permission from local municipalities. However if all goes well, the Survival Swimming team is aiming to commence offering lessons to the public from 1 October 2023 to 30 March 2024.
Throughout winter, lessons will continue on a smaller scale at the Long Street Swimming Pool, Retreat Swimming Pool and Blue Downs Swimming Pool in Cape Town, and at the Survival Swimming Centres, however the latter will not be open to the public unless by special arrangement or via holiday programmes.
For Nazreen, the joy on the faces of children and adults learning a new skill and becoming confident about swimming, safety and even sharing their knowledge with others – is all the motivation she needs to work towards the Survival Swimming team’s ambitious goal for 2023: teaching 25 000 Survival Swimming lessons, which include breath control, orientation in the water, floatation and propulsion.
“Working with the NSRI volunteers, I have always been in awe of the amazing hard work and sacrifices they make each day to serve everyday South Africans. Within the Drowning Prevention department, our job is to educate the public by giving them the knowledge and skillset to know what to do when they find themselves in difficulty in and around water. We are making a tangible difference in people’s lives, and that, for me, is so rewarding,” Nazreen says.
To find out more about Survival Swimming lessons in your area, please contact the Drowning Prevention team via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To apply to become a Survival Swimming instructor, fill out an application form here.
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