The Ngobe community in Bocas del Toro live on a collection of small Caribbean islands off the coast of Panama. Swimming is important for the Ngobe. They live on islands, but can’t afford motor boats as inter-island transport. But to access the mainland and to perform daily tasks, boats are the only method of transport available to them. Therefore, they must paddle in dangerous dug-out canoes. Yet very few of them know how to swim. Drownings are a common occurrence for the Ngobe.
Give & Surf, a non-profit organisation, is looking for skills-based volunteers to help develop a sustainable programme of survival swimming. Next summer they plan to change the lives of 100+ children by giving them swimming lessons.
“We’re going to train the children in a method of survival swimming that we’ve been developing,” says Sophia Chiang, project director. “We’re going to hit the physical aspect of swimming to make sure their strokes, while perhaps not beautiful, will be enough to keep them going for long periods of time so they can swim back to shore or until they are rescued. Kind of like open water swimming, we’re going to make sure they go the distance. We’re also tackling the mental aspect of drowning, which includes keeping them from panicking in high stress situations and knowing how to find help.”
Give & Surf need open water swimmers to train the children in open water environments.
“We need people passionate about the sport and passionate about using their skills to impact the lives of others,” says Chiang. “No experience is required; as long as you are a strong swimmer and open to new ideas, we would love to have you aboard.”
The charity is also fundraising in order to pay for lifesaving equipment, swimming equipment and volunteer training. Give & Surf currently runs a variety of community development programmes for 500 people in the communities of Bahia Honda, Bahia Roja, and Solarte, including adult and elementary school English programmes and a surf outreach mentorship programme.