February 22nd, 2017
The City of Belfast Swimming Club has launched a unique water safety initiative in Northern Ireland which is aimed at raising awareness of safety in water throughout local communities. The hands-on training scheme, called The Ripple Effect, focuses on promoting water safety and drowning prevention and will equip local children with the knowledge and essential swimming skills needed to minimise dangerous incidents.
Spearheaded by the City of Belfast Swimming Club, The Ripple Effect has been launched in support of the UK drowning prevention strategy, which aims to reduce drowning fatalities in the UK by 50% by 2026, and is supported by the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), Speedo® and Northern Ireland charity Hope for Youth. The initiative will see a roll-out of swimming education outreach and applied survival and life-saving lessons across schools in Belfast initially and subsequently throughout Northern Ireland.
Kenny MacDermid, National Drowning Prevention Coordinator, RLSS UK, the Drowning Prevention Charity said “RLSS UK is committed to a year on year reduction in drownings across the UK and Ireland and are delighted to be supporting this project. 400 people accidentally drown each year across the UK and statistics show that young males are most at risk. This excellent initiative equips the young people of Belfast with the key skills they need to make well informed choices regarding their own personal safety in and around the water. At RLSS UK we are privileged to work with many families affected by drowning and see firsthand how devastating this can be not just to the family but the wider community and we are committed to putting a stop to these needless deaths.”
The Ripple Effect is being implemented in three key stages; the initial stage involves primary school children participating in classroom and pool lessons led by coaches with RLSS UK National Pool Lifeguard Qualification (NPLQ) which include water safety presentations, practical floating techniques and life-saving activities. Stage two involves RLSS UK’s Rookie Lifeguard award within the City of Belfast Swimming Club to transform enrolled children into mini lifeguards by teaching them valuable survival, rescue and sports skills that will enable them to enjoy water safely. The final phase of the year-long programme is an end of season cross-community event that will celebrate and award each child’s achievement.
Tanya Martin, Chair, City of Belfast Swimming Club said: “Tragically too many young people are lost to the water each year due to insufficient survival skills or lack of swimming confidence. We hope The Ripple Effect will make waves about the dangers of water, both in a pool setting and in natural water outlets, and provide children with the vital skills to survive in water when adverse conditions strike.”
The Ripple Effect is being piloted with Elmgrove Primary School in East Belfast and includes classroom and poolside lessons taking place at council-owned Avoniel Leisure Centre. Designed to empower the children and remove barriers to water safety including socio-economic burdens, the initiative is supported by Hope for Youth NI which endeavours to provide funding for young people in Northern Ireland to partake in cross community activities irrespective of their backgrounds.
John Crichton, the 7th Earl of Erne and Hope for Youth trustee said: “Water safety is a basic human right that shouldn’t be reserved for families who can afford the privilege of extra-curricular swimming lessons. Every child is entitled to know how to swim on leisurely and security levels. Hope for Youth is delighted to be supporting this new initiative and look forward to celebrating its accomplishments at our next Hope For Youth gala swim in London next November.”
Commenting on the initiative, Hannah English, teacher at Elmgrove Primary School said: “Elmgrove is thrilled to be the first school in Northern Ireland to trial The Ripple Effect. After taking part in the programme’s initial classroom and poolside lessons, we have had great feedback from the pupils regarding their understanding of the coach’s key messages and have noticed a surge in their confidence in the swimming pool. The Ripple Effect has particular importance for our pupils because of the current regeneration work being carried out in Avoniel Park, which is making the Connswater River more visible. A number of pupils that walk to school walk past the river on their way to school so it is great that they are being given first-hand knowledge about water safety and lifesaving skills which is giving them the important tools to show responsibility around water.”