THE children of Bimini can now enjoy the stunning marine environment that surrounds them with increased safety and confidence thanks to a groundbreaking partnership led by Save The Bays.
The environmental advocacy group partnered with SwimTayka and Waterkeepers Bahamas to offer free swim and lifeguard training to young Biminites, who responded enthusiastically and in considerable numbers to the opportunity to increase their self-assurance in and around the water.
"All Bahamians should enjoy the ocean, which is a sacred gift that has been bestowed upon our people," said Joseph Darville, chairman of STB. "At the same time, we want to ensure that people, and especially children, can swim, play and get to know their precious marine environment in conditions that are as safe as possible.
"So many times in the past, enjoyment of the water has been marred by tragedies that could so easily have been prevented had the proper training and life-skills been in place."
International group SwimTayka sends qualified instructors into developing communities around the world to not only to teach both children and adults how to swim, a skill that could one day save their life, but also to educate them about caring for the open water and how to preserve it for future generations. They also teach skills that open the door to future jobs as lifeguards and swimming instructors.
The group sent qualified volunteer swimming instructors from around the world to lead the free swimming classes for the children of Bimini. The programme included instruction in basic water safety, first aid and environmental education, while important classes were also led by SwimTayka's lead drowning prevention volunteer.
Nathalie Vallieres Martin, SwimTayka board member, said: "This week has been an incredibly enriching experience, not only for the kids but for us as volunteers as well. The kids have learnt a life skill, and they will be able to contribute to the island's drowning prevention message. We are so grateful to our partner, Save The Bays."
The event was hosted by Rashema Ingraham, the Coastal Waterkeeper for Bimini and executive director of Waterkeeper Bahamas, which is part of a global network of organisations that aim to make as much of the world's water as possible fishable, drinkable and swimmable.
Ms Ingraham said: "Most of our efforts centre on monitoring water quality levels and regular reporting. We recognise however that the human element is central to all of our work and that the point of swimmable water is that the community has the skills and opportunity to take advantage of it."
She said the great response from the people of Bimini has encouraged them to seek to conduct similar exercises in other communities around the Bahamas, and that she hopes that SwimTayka will continue to partner with STB and Waterkeeper Bahamas to make this a reality.
Adult swim classes will start in Bimini next week.