Over 1,100 children participate in the 2014 YMCA’s Learn to Swim/Swimming for Ocean Survival Program

by: Sharell Lockhart, News Reporter

The Annual YMCA Learn to Swim/Swimming for Ocean Survival (SOS) Program is well underway with more than 1,100 children from both government and private schools learning to swim.

Executive Director of the YMCA Karon Pinder-Johnson, revealed the program, offered to students is completely free of charge and urged parents to take advantage of it.

“The Learn to Swim/Swimming for Ocean Survival Program is designed to teach large amounts of children how to swim or save themselves in the least amount of time.

“It is offered to the students free of charge with parents only required to pay for bus transportation to and from the children’s respective school to the YMCA.

“In fact at the end of this swim season we will celebrate the fifth anniversary of the program being offered to students at absolutely no cost.

“Initially the program was operated at Bishop Michael Eldon School (BMES), Sunland Baptist Academy (SBA) and both St. John’s College and St. Anne’s School in New Providence under the directorship of the YMCA.

“At present we are only at the YMCA and have a stroke instructor at BMES and St. John’s College however, due to a lack of funding our return to SBA was prevented.

“Since its inception the program has been very successful with many children coming through it and are equipped with the theoretical and practical knowledge and knowhow to save themselves in a water emergency situation especially as it regards accidental water submergence,” said Pinder-Johnson

Swim students participating in the program are taught fundamental rules of swimming and according to Pinder-Johnson there are three.

“There are three levels in the Swimming for Ocean Survival Program that we are focused on which include; how to float, how to blow bubbles and how to get out of the pool to a safe point.

“The program is also designed for level four and five, which is an introductory into competitive swimming and children are taught all competitive strokes and they are freestyle, breast stroke, backstroke and butterfly.

“Everyone is excited and we are very pleased in fact, our instructors undergo two weeks of training along with first aid, CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) and certification in levels one, two and three of the SOS program.

“This season we have 13 schools participating which equates to over 1,100 children learning to swim.

“We really are urging parents to allow their children to take advantage of the program not only because it is free but because the skills taught can help to save a life.

“We are headed into the summer break season and normally scores of families go to the beach and to prevent any tragedy, we want our children to be equipped with the knowledge and the knowhow to survive in the event of an accidental water submergence.

“The Bahamas is an island nation surrounded by water and every parent should want their child to learn how to swim.

“The uniqueness of the SOS Program is the fact that it is free which provides a level playing field for all children to learn to swim no matter their parents’ financial or social background.

“We all know water is a major attraction for children regardless as to whether or not it is in a pool or at the beach and parents have a greater peace of mind when their child is aware of the water, the safety mechanism in place and knowing what to do in the water.

“Again I urge parents to utilize the program and even if they prefer another swimming institution than the YMCA, they should enroll their child,” said Pinder-Johnson.

Swimming is an essential skill that can be used throughout a person’s life said the YMCA executive who noted a famous quote, which states, “It’s a good idea to begin at the bottom in everything except in learning to swim.”

The YMCA runs a lifeguard certification course that comprises of 32 weeks and includes first aid, CPR and AED (automated external defibrillator) training.

“We run this program based on the number of persons we can get at one time and are empowering young people, who are very good swimmers with a lifesaving skill set that they can use to gain employment.

“Lifeguards are required to swim 26 lengths of the pool continually which is equivalent to 550 yards.

“They must be able to do this in the swimming pool and swim 275 yards out and in with your victim in the ocean.

“So we do prepare our lifeguards to handle any situation that requires them to get out there and render assistance in saving a life,” Pinder-Johnson revealed.

The YMCA executive director also noted that the organization works closely with the Bahamas government and private businesses on Grand Bahama and within The Bahamas.

She revealed she is hopeful that in the not too distant future, both groups would come together and employ certified lifeguards during the holiday and summer break season to be on the beaches of The Bahamas ensuring the safety of beachgoers.

“It would be a blessing if the government was to partner with us to ensure that we have lifeguards on all our beaches especially during holidays and the summer months.

“As you know most parents cannot deal with a water accident situation especially as it regards first aid, CPR and knowing how to retrieve the victim, which is essential.

“So this service is vital and serious consideration and investment must be made into lifeguard services,” said Pinder-Johnson.

Freeport Primary coach Pamela Lewis agreed with the sentiments expressed by Pinder-Johnson noting that she received her swim instructor certification from the YMCA.

“Parents must take advantage of the SOS Program allowing their children the invaluable opportunity to learn to swim.

“As a youngster I had an experience whereby I was thrown into a pool and did not know how to swim.

“After being rescued I promised myself that I would learn and that decision has been one of the best I have ever made.

“As a physical education teacher at Freeport Primary School I make it a point to ensure that every swim season my students take advantage of this program and when we arrive at the YMCA I make use of my training and get in the pool with the students.

“This helps to abate their fear because they say to themselves if Ms. Lewis is doing it I can to.

“I also urge other physical education teachers and coaches who do not know how to swim to come to the YMCA and learn as it is vital and it adds to their credentials.

“Additionally, parents should not be fearful of the water even if they themselves cannot swim, because once their children know how to and parents encounter a situation here they may need rescuing, their children could end up being the ones to save them.

“Again, this training (learning to swim) is essential for as you know, oftentimes persons go into a panic attack due to a fear of drowning and the techniques taught helps to equip both our children and adults handle and control those situations and prevent further accident or death.

“I cannot encourage parents and their children, sports coaches and the public in general enough to take advantage of the YMCA’s Learn to Swim/Swimming for Ocean Survival (SOS) Program as it literally helps to preserve life and it gives the body a good workout from head to toe,” Lewis concluded.

For further information about the Learn to Swim/Swimming for Ocean Survival and Lifeguard Programs and other initiatives of the YMCA telephone 352-7074/5 or visit www.ymcabahamas.com.

Published Thursday, May 8, 2014

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