This week is Water Safety Week. It’s the week Life Saving Victoria’s Drowning Report is released, a week to reflect on your own and your family’s water safety practices and a week to remember those who sadly lost their lives to drowning. It’s also a week to acknowledge more can always be done to reduce the number of fatal drownings in our state.
YMCA Victoria is committed to working towards a state where every Victorian can access swimming lessons and water safety skills, with some of the most passionate swimming teachers in the country working tirelessly in our centres.
While our focus on our local communities has never been stronger, we’ve also expanded our reach to global communities in need in recent times. We’ve had staff and volunteers visit Sri Lanka to share water safety training and skills, and even more recently, to Cambodia.
Every day six Cambodian children drown. This equates to over 2,000 lives lost every year. Drowning is the leading cause of death in children aged 1-4 years and has been declared a global health crisis by the World Health Organisation.
As world leaders in water safety education the Y is committed to reducing these horrific statistics. This is why we are working in partnership with YMCA Cambodia to deliver the life changing Swim for Safety program.
This week, a team of six YMCA swim teacher and lifeguard volunteers head to Cambodia to teach, upskill and empower 120 Cambodian children in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. The swimming and water safety program focuses on basic survival skills for river, beaches and pools, changing cultural attitudes and providing children with the skills to then share with their family. The majority of the volunteers are aged 25 years and under.
This will be Aquatic Leader Maggie Greenham’s second program volunteering. The 23-year-old says the community is in desperate need for water safety education.
“Nearly all children in Cambodia don’t have basic water safety knowledge or personal survival skills and it can be difficult to find this vital lifesaving education,” she said.
“Drowning often occurs during everyday activities such as washing, farming and collecting water. The result of this is that thousands of children lose their lives to drowning each year, and as water safety experts we can positively influence this through our program,” Greenham said.
Tragic tales of whole families drowning due to unsuccessful rescues are also common in Sihanoukville. This occurs where one family member tries to rescue the other, but does not have the proper skills.
Teaching how to rescue, shifting cultural attitudes and developing personal survival skills are also part of the program.
“While 120 kids do the program, the social impact is much greater than this.
“We teach kids how to pass on their knowledge to their families and communities. These life-saving skills then have the potential to reach over 500 people in the community,” Greenham said.
YMCA Victoria is working with YMCA Cambodia over the next 18 months to deliver more swimming and water safety programs and continue to educate local communities.
YMCA Aquatics Specialist Janelle Falkingham said the success is based on working with the community, “We want to train local teachers to make it sustainable, to make long-term changes, and have local advocates.”
“We believe that any life lost, is one too many.”