By Tarina Rubin, TASC, Thailand.
After much anticipation at the Mahapapkrajardthong Ooppratham School in the Samut Prakan province of Bangkok, the city’s first SwimSafe pool is now in operation! It is the second SwimSafe Thailand venue, following the construction of another pool in the rural province of Chiang Rai in the country’s north in June 2009.
These swimming pools are unique in that they are portable; this forms the central premise of SwimSafe Thailand. The program is a vital public health intervention which aims to prevent child drowning by teaching school children the survival swimming skills that can save lives. The portability of the pools means that they can be easily transported from school to school to reach as many children as possible. SwimSafe also trains local community members to be survival swimming instructors.
Drowning kills more children aged 1-17 years in Thailand than any other single cause. SwimSafe Thailand is working to address this critical but widely unrecognised issue. The program is an initiative of The Alliance for Safe Children (TASC), in partnership with the College of Public Health Sciences at Chulalongkorn University.
In Samut Prakan, the school constructed a quality pool enclosure on school grounds in preparation for the pool. The swimming pool was installed at the end of August, causing a stir among students when the local fire department made a grand entrance in their big red fire truck, ready to fill the pool with water.
The first round of survival swim instructor training was conducted by the Thai Life Saving Society on 1-4 September 2009. Five school teachers and 17 students from Grades 9 and 10 participated in the training, the students set to become instructors’ assistants.
Training included lessons in water safety, rescue, basic swimming skills and lesson planning using a curriculum adapted for the specific needs of Thailand and certified by SwimSafe’s technical partner, the Royal Life Saving Society — Australia.
The Thai Red Cross has also conducted CPR training with the group, a requirement for any SwimSafe instructor.
Students are eagerly awaiting the first SwimSafe classes which will commence for children aged 6-12 in the new school term in November. An official project launch at the Samut Prakan school is also scheduled for November.
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