Highly trained instructors from the International Surf Lifesaving Association (ISLA) were back in Rarotonga this month to volunteer and share their lifeguard skills, knowledge and passion for water safety.
Last year’s inaugural Basic Open Water Lifeguard course, organised by water sports business Rongohiva and supported by Cook Islands Red Cross Society, sparked a renewed energy to make water safety a priority across the Cook Islands community through the provision of basic lifesaving courses.
Cook Islands Red Cross took on the challenge to develop the first water safety manual as well as facilitate the return of the International Surf Lifesaving Association volunteer instructors with funding support from the New Zealand High Commission.
New Zealand High Commissioner to the Cook Islands Peter Marshall commended the visiting volunteer International Surf Lifesaving Association on their dedication in improving water safety globally and here in Paradise.
“You people save lives – you are doing God’s work,” he told the ISLA volunteers.
“And now you are here to share that work with us locally – it is fantastic work you are doing and we are excited to be part of bringing this life saving course to the Cook Islands.”
Over three days, a group of around 30 local residents were put through their paces in both theory and practical sessions that saw participants put into practice the water safety and rescue skills they had learned from the dedicated crew of ISLA volunteer instructors who came from as far as Ireland, California and Australia to share their passion for water safety.
Most of the lifeguard trainees were local youth who work in and around the water for lagoon tour operators and from the activity huts at tourist accommodations on the island, as well as Red Cross and health and teaching professionals.
For the Cook Islands Red Cross Society, last year’s open water lifeguard workshop is the first step in exploring the prospect of creating water safety training modules to be included in the Society’s already comprehensive First Aid programmes.
Cook Islands Red Cross Society secretary general Fine Tuitupou-Arnold says being part of the lifeguard training ties in with the society’s “Vision 1000” strategy plan of reaching out to more people in the community in measurable ways across six key focus areas.
The strategy is the society’s short term goal recruiting 1000 volunteers to assist the humanitarian society reach out to more than 1000 beneficiaries across the nation by the year 2018.
“We have to be innovative and step outside our comfort zone to achieve our Vision 1000 goals,” says Fine.
She says the island environment makes it even more relevant for the society to look at producing water safety modules as part of its First Aid programmes.
One of the society’s goals is to improve the water safety culture of the nation by delivering basic but relevant water safety programme through schools across the country.
“Our water safety culture needs to be started at a very young age so we are looking to deliver this through our school communities,” says Fine.
She says over the years, there has been high demand from commercial First Aid clients for water safety training for staff and the current training by the International Surf Lifesaving Association will now provide the Cook Islands Red Cross Society with the skills and tools to develop a water safety component in its First Aid programmes.
“As a tourism industry, we can see this being included in our commercial First Aid programme where we can deliver the water safety modules as part of our trainings for staff at tourist accommodations across the island to be able to be better prepared for any water incidents.”
International Lifesaving Association (ISLA) volunteer instructors were thrilled to be back in the islands to support improved water safety and have donated lifeguard equipments including life tubes and fins to help the Cook Islands Red Cross and the wider water using community improve water safety awareness and train lifeguards to help patrol beaches and keep water users safe.