The trainee Vietnamese lifesavers pose with boards with Aussie lifeguard Katherine Waterhouse 27 January 2012 Photo: Aussie lifesaver Katherine Waterhouse with trainee Vietnamese lifesavers
Great artical for great lady, Katherine Waterhouse.
As the local citizen who moving to Danang for living, I highly appreciate for what she has done for locals and beach goers.
Ceratinly, hope to see more Aussie to travel to Vietnam and enjoy the beach in Danang, Hoian.
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Aussie lifesavers helping Vietnam beachgoers
By Pamela Medlen
Posted January 27, 2012 21:39:46
As thousands of West Australians swarm to the beach this summer, they will be watched over by dedicated surf lifesaving volunteers.
There will be warnings about rips and sandbars and dangerous swimming conditions.
But beyond our shores in a country that’s described as having some of the most luxurious beaches in the world, swimmers are not so lucky.
In Vietnam the drowning statistics are high.
One Australian surf lifesaver has joined a small team trying to change that.
Katherine Waterhouse joined Surf Life Saving Australia 13 years ago and when she heard about a range of life saving volunteer positions coming up overseas, was more than eager to dive in.
She now finds herself in Danang, in central Vietnam, an area with some popular stretches of beach – a long way from her regular job as a policy officer in a federal government department in Canberra.
“My aim is to help some dedicated locals and expats to establish a surf lifesaving movement here in Danang,” Ms Waterhouse said.
“Although parts of the beach are patrolled by a civic lifeguard service and the big resorts employ lifeguards, beach safety can be improved greatly with a bit of help.”
She said the lifeguards do an amazing job, given how few of them there are, the numbers of swimmers they have to look after and their lack of formal training.
“With a few exceptions, neither the public nor resort lifeguards have the modern rescue resources that we Aussies take for granted,” she said.
Danang is a popular summer holiday destination for the Vietnam.
“And, although the central Vietnamese are a beach-loving people, a large proportion of adults and children either can’t swim at all or are very poor swimmers and so are very vulnerable in the ocean.”
“Conditions are not dissimilar to those of Australia, variable swells, big sandbars and strong rips.”
Ms Waterhouse says the key drivers of the lifesaving project are a couple of ex-patriot Aussies who now call Vietnam home.
Duncan MacLean is one of them.
He grew up on the Sunshine Coast and was part of his local Surf Life Saving Club before he went to pursue a hotel career overseas.
Now the general manager of Furama resort in Danang, he first learned of the problems when the Royal Life Saving Society of Australia hosted the World Congress on Drowning at his resort.
“During the meetings, I was informed of the terrible numbers of people who die from drowning here in Vietnam on a daily basis,” Mr MacLean said.
He says he and another ex-pat Australian Quentin Derrick, came up with the idea of how they could help reduce the number of surf drowning deaths in Danang.
“Being located on one of the best beaches in Asia, combined with that I was already working with Surf Life Saving Australia who annually train my lifeguards at the Resort, gave us ideal opening and opportunity to establish Vietnam’s very first Surf Life Saving Club, the Danang Beach Surf Life Saving Club,” he said.
“We both believe that this project is vitally important as it will not only help in the reduction of drowning deaths but it will also contribute in developing the young Vietnamese people who join the clubs to become better, fitter and more responsible.”
A volunteering culture
This is just one of many volunteering projects in Asia, the Pacific and Africa being coordinated from Australia.
Jessica Whiting is from Austraining International, a partner to the Australian Volunteers for International Development, an Australian Government funded initiative.
Her organisation is supporting the Surf Life Saving program, but it also coordinates about 550 Australians in a range of short and longer-term volunteer placements.
“There’s anything from health professionals to education, IT workers, construction to trades people,” Ms Whiting said.
She says their programs range from one for 18 to 30-year-olds with a university degree or work experience to one for older people who are looking to give something back, or retirees who are winding up at work.
“We often hear volunteers say when they come back ‘I felt like I received so much more than I gave’ the people are doing amazing work, but it’s also an amazing experience for them,” she said.
“They’re also extending their skills, they’re learning about cross-cultural communication and how to implement change and positive development while having few resources.”
In her online blog on the Austraining International website Katherine Waterhouse writes ‘As far as I can work out, the literal translation of my role here is ‘teacher of rescue on the beach’… there has been a great deal of effort invested into survival swimming programs for children, so the odd appearance of foreign swimming teachers doesn’t hold too much mystery for locals. ‘Teachers of beach rescue’, however, are a new concept to a population that really doesn’t have a good understanding of how to stay safe at the beach.’
Ms Waterhouse said there had been a good turnout for their first basic lifeguard training program.
She’s also running a nippers program and local parents are hoping their children can join in next season.
“There’s been enthusiastic support for the programs that we have been able to run so far, which bodes well for steadily increasing local involvement once the movement is officially up and running,” she said.
Ms Waterhouse says there have been hurdles to cross, including waiting on formal government approval for the project to operate as a not-for-profit organisation.
But the hold-up has not limited her passion for the cause.
“I’m keeping my fingers crossed that there will be another volunteer to come in and assist where I leave off, since it’s a big undertaking and will take time, patience and ongoing effort.”