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Swimming Lessons and Life Jackets for Remote Fishing Communities

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Date: August 29, 2012

By: admin

Children from remote fishing villages along the Kenyan Coast will receive swimming lessons in an effort to increase safety on water and raise awareness on maritime environmental issues.

The people of Urk, a fishing community in Central Netherland, raised funds in a soccer tournament fundraiser for swimming lessons, safety training and provision of life jackets for Kenyan coastal people.

TURNING FROGS INTO SHARKS

“The most important part of safety awareness is to teach children how to swim,” Farid says. “Most children in the coast live near the sea. Whether their parents are aware or not, these children are in the water a lot.”

Farid is a swimming coach at Mombasa Braeburn School and a volunteer lifeguard trained by the Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) of the UK. He volunteers at the Jomo Kenyatta public beach, the most crowded piece of seaside sand in Kenya and a place where many children drown because they do not know how to swim, only how to splash.

Through the International Maritime Rescue Federation (IMRF), Crisis Response Development Foundation (CRDF) received the funds that the Urk community raised and will use this to teach 40 ch¬ildren selected from Mtwapa Primary School how to swim.

“Many of the Children drown because of the sheer number of people at the beach during peak times,” John Sutton, CRDF director says.

Farid will be teaching students from Mtwapa Primary school how to swim and life saving skills. The school has nearly 70 percent of students living close to the sea.

He compares kids floundering in the shallows to frogs, and calls children who can swim safely sharks. His mission is to convert them from one to the other.

“Have you seen those people who look like frogs when they jump into the water?” Farid asked the students. They had. They were giggling and whispering to each other about someone they knew. “I will be honored to teach you how to swim. Not jump in the water like frogs.”

BEACON OF HOPE

“I did not play football as many of the neighborhood children did,” Farid recalls. “I was in water most of my youth.”

The students of Mtwapa Primary school that live along Kenya’s 700km Indian Ocean coastline also spend a great deal of time in the water in their spare time. These children are not fortunate enough to go to a school with a swimming pool let alone have a swimming instructor.

Nonetheless, Mtwapa Primary School is special in that it also caters for children with disabilities such as microcephalus, speech or hearing impairment and so forth, a rarity in remote areas. The school is a beacon of hope in many respects.

From September to December 2012, the selected students will be taught how to swim over the weekend covering lessons on confidence building, stroke work and environmental education.

At the end of the training, the children will go out to sea on a boat and have the chance to observe marine life in the coral reef.

TEACH US HOW TO SWIM

CRDF through its maritime safety initiative has been working to improve safety on water for nearly five years.

CRDF has also been working with fishermen and beach traders in training and provision of equipment. CRDF will also facilitate the provision of lifejackets through the same funding for swimming lessons.

“Following our initial meeting with fishing communities and Beach Management Units (BMUs),”Sutton explains, “we identified where people were most vulnerable and this opened up ideas for saving lives.”

CRDF has since inception partnered with various local and international organizations to provide swimming, lifeguard and first aid trainings. CRDF has worked with organizations such as Kenya Maritime Authority (KMA) Kenya Red Cross, RNLI, UK, St John’s Ambulance and Koninklijke Nederlandse Redding Maatschappij (KNRM), a Dutch foundation that works to save lives at sea.

When CRDF asked the various groups at the initial meeting what they needed to improve safety, the response was not the expected. “I expected them to ask for boats and fishing equipment.” Sutton said. “Instead, an old man said they wanted to be taught how to swim”.

The 75 year old man explained that he had been fishing since he was 15 and been out to sea everyday but did not know how to swim. Many fishermen die when their boats capsize because they do not know how to swim.

“It is just by the grace of God that I am still alive,” the old man said.

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