July 19

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8 Filipinos Die of Drowning Every Day

The recreational activity of swimming has been recorded since prehistoric times. Yes it really has. I did the research. The earliest recording of swimming dates back to Stone Age paintings from around 10000 years ago. You can find written references dating as far back as 2000 BC., mentioned in the Bible.

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For most of my life, when summer rolls around, I look forward to doing laps around the pool. While on a tropical vacation. I absolutely love jumping in the ocean or heading out on a scuba dive. Yet, something which seems so simple to me, is terrifying to so many here in the Philippines.

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Seventy eight percent of children here can’t swim and it is one of the leading causes of death. “About eight persons die everyday due to drowning and that more were reported to be victims of near drowning (10 cases per day),” a Philippine report presented at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention (WCDP) 2011 said. Children were found to be more prone to or at risk of drowning.

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It doesn’t stop there. Most adults, including many Save the Children staff, can’t either. I find many sit wearing their sunglasses poolside or get in the ‘sea’ to about knee level at company activities. That’s as far as their skills go. One staff member here drown last year after accidentally falling in the water.

This is far from unusual globally: according to the International Swimming Association (ISA), one in five children in the world are unable to swim – more than nine million people – despite swimming being the one of most popular participation activities in so many countries. School swimming lessons are not easily found in third world countries. So many Philippine children grow up with a fear of the water. And yet, this country is home to the three of the top five most beautiful islands in the world. Ironic, isn’t it? The ocean is breathtakingly beautiful, not to mention as warm as bath water.

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Can you imagine sitting by a pool somewhere on a blistery hot day and being afraid to jump in to cool off? Many Filipinos I have spoken to, acknowledge it would be nice to go in and have a swim, but they don’t have a way to go out and learn. Introduce your Pulse volunteer, Maryanne, and we have a solution.

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I remember arriving here a little over a month ago. I wondered how I could make sustainable change. What strengths could I tap into to come up with outside the box solutions? How could I help the children? Could I do more outside of my work day? I have come up with one idea. I am giving free swimming lessons to Save The Children staff, children, friends, anyone who desires.

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It is so rewarding to see a child’s face the first time they dunk under water or swim a few feet.

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I also helped a fifty six year old woman swim for the first time. She and I shared a tear of joy after she swam across a pool to me.

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A coworker I taught told me, ‘With someone next to me I found I can tread water and get away from the wall – I feel much more confident now.’ For these Filipinos, learning to swim is a sustainable change, not to mention it could save their life. Typhoons happen so often here. It is easy to suddenly find yourself in water unexpectedly.

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In closing, perhaps you have a skill, something you take for granted, that someone you know struggles with. I suggest writing down what you are good at to discover this. Maybe you too can make an improvement in someone’s life.