Sunday, June 23, 2013

River Swimming for Kids

Swim to School

volunteer instructor -Jose, teaching
proper swim stroke

Swim! Tube! Raft! To go to school. When I first saw the video and picture – my first thought was – Transfer the school! Followed by ‘Build a bridge!’ Not bothering to really understand the issue. The images were sent by a contact in SMART (my team’s sponsor in Search and Rescue) at the time soliciting for any help we can provide. Doubt and laziness are powerful enemies – my team soon got busy and refocused our effort on other ‘realistic work’ (partly because of the thought that my group is powerless in addressing the main issue). It will take another year before I see the pictures and videos again, and an eventual site visit to explore what we can do.

Sam of GMA7 news interviews insturctor
Sinag and the participants

 Building a foot bridge is something I or my friends in UPM SAR have no expertise on. DPWH apparently did do some construction planning (after the ‘issue’ was aired by GMA7), but DENR strongly opposed it. DEPED (education) built schools when there’s a community sometimes violating DENR’s rule. The site is within the Marikina watershed – a ‘no development” and supposedly “no habitation” place. Well, due to economic difficulties, Philippines has a lot of these populated-but-restricted areas. When my group -UP Mountaineers adopted a highly denuded site in IPO watershed (70% deforested), our problem was not the reforestation itself, but the illegal settlers in the area. They don’t only slash-and-burn the place, they even ‘harvested’ our seedlings (after our planting) and sold for the next tree planting trips. In Taal volcano island – my Kayak group visited the school that housed some 350 grade-schoolers (and thousands of residents). To think – the island is a permanent danger zone (Taal volcano is active) and habitation is not allowed.

Casili School - P&G joined in by
donating boxes of Safeguard and Rejoice

Anyway, the 2 schools in the vicinity are Casili and Inigan. This is just ‘behind’ Antipolo and Montalban – very close to the Metro proper. We sat down with SMART’s CSR group – who sort of adopted the place for their community work. With very limited help-offer options, I concluded that the ‘first step’ that our combined team can do is offer WATER SAFETY COURSE. Don’t let them drown, at least.

Soon, volunteer instructors from UPM SAR and GoTOTO org  were pulled in and a ‘project was born’. The team will conduct ‘river swimming and survival classes’ hopefully in time before the school starts. The other ‘offer’ that we thought was possible is the provision of simple PFDs (floatation devices), to reduce the chances of drowning, even throw ropes as rescue aid.

instructor Sinag - teaching kids proper
crawl stroke
 The bigger kids are actually very good swimmers – some parents even boasted that older generations were recruited in the Coast Guards. And they were very good tube riders (a tube is an inflatable inner truck tire shaped like a donut, used as boat-floatation). We probably just need to add proper rescue-your-classmate sort of training for them.

I remember watching the tubing video and telling our friends from Smart, “Look, they don’t need help – they’re having a hell of fun riding those tubes! Every single day!”

I said that in jest ;) knowing that there were bad incidents of drowning, something where our small group of volunteers can make a difference.

Teach them how to swim, teach them how to survive! One happy safe soul is always better than a sad parent.

cold but not tired - advanced swimmer-
kids resting on a rock


If you’re a swimming or water rescue instructor, you may get in touch with GoTOTO (visit their site).

If your group have access to ‘donatable’ floatation devices, throw-ropes or rafts –let us know (Smart CSR, UPM SAR or GoTOTO) how to pick them up. OR – you can always organize your own trips there.

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