Declaring it was proud to help impart lifesaving skills to children growing up on an island surrounded by water, environmental group Save The Bays has presented a grant to the YMCA SOS Learn to Swim programme in Grand Bahama.
The contribution will pave the way for thousands of children to take an in-the-water course that could save lives.
Some 13,000 pre-school and primary school students have already benefitted from the SOS (Swim for Ocean Survival) course, according to Grand Bahama YMCA Executive Director Karon Johnson.
“We can’t thank Save the Bays enough for seeing the importance of this programme,” said Ms Johnson.
“The course is designed to teach kids to survive, first and foremost, in an underwater situation. As they get older, we work to introduce them to opportunities provided by competitive swimming and thirdly, we want to them to have the skills to enjoy our marine environment so they don’t have a fear of the sea.”
Overcoming fear and appreciating the beauty of the underwater world, said Save The Bays education officer and a director of the YMCA Joseph Darville, is one of the reasons Save The Bays selected the YMCA SOS programme as its newest partner.
“It is with tremendous joy and satisfaction that I, on behalf of Save The Bays, present this grant to the Grand Bahama YMCA,” said Mr Darville. “As Executive Programme Vice-Chairman of the YMCA, I know firsthand the outstanding and unparalleled work this organisation has done over the past 20 years in teaching thousands of our school children on Grand Bahama to swim. Additionally, over the past two years, the Anglican schools in Nassau have come on board and the programme benefits their students as well. This is the only training course of its kind in The Bahamas.”
The SOS programme runs twice a year, September through October and April through June, and caters to pre-schools and primary schools in Grand Bahama, private and public. Students are bused to the YMCA from school for hour long sessions.
The programme was created to address the fact that although The Bahamas is surrounded by water, many local children are unable to swim, partly because of a traditional fear of water-related accidents and partly because of the cost of swimming lessons.
“Thanks to companies, donors and organisations like Save The Bays we have been able to offer the programme free of charge to the children of Grand Bahama,” said Ms Johnson. Costs are also contained by part of the programme falling within the Physical Education curriculum in schools.
“This is the only training course of its kind in The Bahamas, and we are extremely proud to be the body responsible for imparting lifesaving skills to multitudes of our children who live in an archipelagic nation,” Mr Darville said. “This grant is indeed in line with the goal of the Save the Bays organisation as it strives to conserve and preserve the beauty of these islands, terrestrial and marine and thus enable all children now and in the future to enjoy these islands both on land and in the sea.”
Since its launch in April, Save The Bays has gained more than 5,000 signatures on a petition calling for an environmental protection act, managed an awareness campaign that has opened the eyes of thousands to the delicate nature of the environment and formed partnerships with more than a dozen organisations with environmental interests and agendas.