Saturday, October 17, 2009

Water Safety Training - Ha'apai Style

When the new volunteers arrived in Ha'apai on Monday we were informed by Peace Corps that they had not performed their water safety training. Usually this task gets done at the Navy base in Nuku'alofa by one of the Navy staff, but since the tsunami hit Niua, all the Navy have been there assisting in the rebuiliding and clean-up and were unavailable to do the training. So, Peace Corps called on the current volunteers (thats us) to help with the training. We started with an introduction to the island, safe places to go and unsafe places to go. We then introduced them to dangerous marine life, things that could potentially harm them or possibly kill them. We might have over intensified the death factor but it was just to get their attention. Many things in the ocean can hurt or maybe cause death but the likely factor of this happening is minimal to none. We just wanted to make sure the volunteers were educated on these things so they would know what to look for and stay away from. After the discussion we preped them for the water activities that we would be doing. Once we were finished we moved out to the wharf to start the training.We brought the volunteers to the wharf outside the Peace Corps office to perform the safety training. We had them all jump into the water off the wharf and assist each other in putting on their lifejackets. We also had them put on their lifejackets themselves. We performed this exercise because if you ever had to abandon a boat mid sea it is possible that you would have to put on you lifejacket in the water or assist someone with a lifejacket. After lifejacket safety we moved onto floating in groups of 3 and in a large group. This is something that is useful if stranded at sea. Creating a group in the water not only saves energy but it allows planes to spot you easier. After floating for a while we moved onto body dragging. Each volunteer had to swim a distance of 30 meters while dragging their partner behind them. We then moved onto the front crawl swim and back stroke, and also had the volunteers tread water for 2 minutes. All of these exercises were performed with lifejackets on and then with lifejackets off. Lastly we had Phil, one of our senior volunteers, paddle out 50 yards from the wharf. The volunteers had to swim to him and then back to the wharf. All in all we had a great time in the water. Phil was in the water the majority of the time assisting volunteers with the exercises and also paddling around on his surfboard offering assistance to anyone who was tired. Kate and I were on the top of the wharf offering instructions to the volunteers and watching for any signs of exhaustion or distress. The volunteers seemed to have a great time and it was fun to interact and talk with them. They are a great group of people and we look forward to helping out with the rest of their training.

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