Staying Afloat and More

Since the opening of the salt water pool in 2010, which was bequeathed to Sarnelli House by “Smitty” Creston Smith and is located behind the House of Hope, the children have a whole new healthy activity to enjoy.  The little ones usually remain in the shallow end of the pool, but over the course of the last year they have grown more courageous and hung along the rim of the swimming pool and inched their way up to the deep end. With the help of patient volunteers who have been swamped by kids wanting to cling to their backs and take them up to the deep end, and to the donation of floatation devices the kids’ courage has increased. The teenage boys have leant how to do back flips into the water and swim underwater searching for tossed coins. Adult supervision has been essential for the children – especially the children from Sarnelli House who seem to have so much extra energy and who are the largest in number of all the houses. There can be 20 boys in the pool at once and their ages range from 4 years old to 14 years old and they all have varying degrees of confidence in the water. Numerous times children have had to be fished out of the water as they are out of their depth or their play is so vigorous that one of them looses their footing and can’t regain it. Obviously very few of the children of Sarnelli House know how to actually swim or have any notion of water safety. The Alliance for Safe Children conducted the Thai National Injury Survey in 2003 - 4 across more than 100,000 households in Thailand and they found drowning to be the leading cause of death for Thai children over the age of 1.  With this sad fact in mind and with the responsibility that comes with having a swimming pool for children, the Thai Life Saving Society were organised to come all the way from Bangkok and to give a week’s swimming lessons to the kids in the last week of their school holidays.

5 experienced instructors set up classes for 3 hours in the morning and 3 hours in the afternoon. They adopted a military style of training which the kids really responded to. Although after the first day the numbers dropped from 60 kids to 30, they jumped up again the next day. The children were taught water safety theory as well as water familiarization, swimming skills and safe rescue techniques. They were put into groups and categorized by yellow swimming caps with numbers on. A make shift shelter covering the pool was set up at both ends of the pool as the sun was unbearable and it also served to encourage the teenage girls to keep attending as they did not have to fear their skin turning brown in the sun.  Learning to float, to kick their legs effectively to breathe correctly when swimming where some of the skills the children were taught. After the morning lessons they stayed on at Pi Si Tong – at St Patrick’s and the Jan and Oscar House and ate lunch, relaxed and played until the afternoon session. Arriving home in the afternoons meant a bunch of tired kids would sleep well that night.

The children loved the week and their instructors who taught them with enthusiasm and dedication and a good dose of fun. They have gained new skills and confidence in the water and can enjoy the pool even more.

Kate Introna
May 16 2011