The balmy beaches and crystal clear waters of The Bahamas is an alluring attraction not only for visitors but residents too and, water safety is oftentimes forgotten.
Annually, particularly on holidays, families’ host outings at the beach and such joyous occasions become horrific when just for a split second a child is left unsupervised and a drowning occurs.
In light of this fact, the Rotary Club of Freeport (RCF) has sought to heighten water safety awareness and education throughout Grand Bahama by introducing the Josh the Baby Otter Water Safety and Awareness Project during the organization’s weekly meeting at Ruby Swiss Restaurant on Thursday, August 10, 2017.
The Josh the Baby Otter Water Safety and Awareness Project combines literacy and education to teach children and parents alike life saving water safety methods in an effort to reduce the risk of drowning, which studies have shown is the second leading cause of death in children between the ages of one through 14 years old in the United States of America alone.
Mike Stafford, RCF Director of Community Service provided insight into the Josh the Baby Otter Water Safety and Awareness Project to fellow Rotarians and highlighted the significance of implementing the project on Grand Bahama stating, “The Josh the Baby Otter Programme derived out of a tragedy experienced by the parents of the late Joshua Collingsworth, who drowned during a family get together at his home several years ago.
“Hoping to turn the tragedy into a teachable moment in spite of their unbearable loss, Josh’s parents Blake and Kathy Collingsworth started the Josh the Baby Otter Water Safety and Awareness Project with the mission to educate children and adults worldwide about water safety through the utilization of drowning prevention campaigns and early childhood water safety training, which has been adopted by Rotary International across the United States of America and Canada.
“Definitely it is the goal of the RCF under the leadership of President Elsie Knowles to implement the Josh the Baby Otter Water Safety and Awareness Project here on Grand Bahama and the wider Bahamas by extension, as too many of our young children have drowned at holiday beach events.
“Unfortunately, despite living in this archipelagic paradise most children as well as their parents do not know how to swim or were not professionally taught how to do so in order to reduce their risk of drowning or experiencing a near drowning incident.
“Certainly it is quite troubling to read in the newspapers or watch a segment during the news broadcast of a child and/or adult for that matter losing their life because they were never taught to swim.”
Determined to have the Josh the Baby Otter Water Safety and Awareness Project not only properly introduced in every school beginning from pre-kindergarten to junior high on Grand Bahama but also implemented as a part of the curriculum, the RCF Director of Community Service revealed his commitment to meet with the Grand Bahama Principals and Vice Principals Association as well as all five Members of Parliament to explain and underline the importance of the project and partnering to ensure it is successfully established.
Children between the ages of eight months and four years old will be taught how to float and bob said Stafford, who noted that the technique can definitely help to save their lives should the little darlings find themselves in a compromising scenario.
“The little ones (eight months to four years old) would be taught how to float and bob during the initial phase of the Josh the Baby Otter Water Safety & Awareness Project, as being able to swim the entire length of a pool is not a skill requirement at their age.
“We want to equip them with the right life saving techniques in the unfortunate instance they happen to fall into a pool or jump in one and know how to float on their back and survive.
“We want to get the ball rolling this summer to have these lessons taught and we are hoping to partner with the YMCA as well as swimming/aquatics programs throughout the island to establish such,” declared Stafford.
RCF President Knowles is 100 percent on-board with the idea and in fact had announced that the introduction and implementation of the Josh the Baby Otter Water Safety and Awareness Project is a goal she would like to accomplish during her tenure at the helm of the service organization.
She noted that it is saddening to know that most children as well as adults residing on this sub-tropical paradise do not know how to swim, especially as many love the beach and lounging poolside with friends and family during the summertime.
Recalling an experience that haunts her, Knowles shared, “Implementing Josh the Baby Otter Water Safety & Awareness Project is a goal that has been near to my heart for many years upon learning about it.
“Several years ago, my 10-year-old nephew had been visiting with me and had a near drowning experience; the memory of which still haunts me.
“Vividly I remember my sister asking me how would I have been able to explain to her that her son had drowned and for years I could not come up with an answer and I thank God that I did not have to.
“So, scarred by this experience, I sought ways to ensure that I would be able to help not only my nephew but also others who cannot swim or do not possess the skills to survive if caught in an open water incident to learn to do so.
“The message must reverberate throughout The Bahamas that it is imperative for everyone to learn how to swim for the littlest to the biggest among us.
“We must exercise tenacity in teaching our children to swim and possess life saving techniques; oftentimes they are taught about ‘Stranger Danger’ and ‘Touch Me Not’ hence we must ensure that they understand that the water is not safe to be in or near unless they are properly supervised.
“Definitely, we want an understanding to be firm established that yes the water may be beautiful and look enticing and a ball or toy that fell in close to the edge may seem easy to retrieve but the edge might pose more danger and be further than we think putting them in harm’s way.”