Even when beaches, rivers and pools were ordered closed due to COVID-19, there were water deaths. From a two-year-old at a family pool in Cunupia to a teenager at Claxton Bay, the tragic stories were reported.
Miss World Delegate Jemima Pierre’s project Beauty with a Cause which is focused on water safety for disadvantaged youth and differently-abled children.
That’s one of the reasons Miss World T&T delegate Jemima Sarah Renée Pierre has chosen water competency as her Beauty with a Purpose project. The Chaguanas representative balances her life as a business student and judicial employee with her lifelong passion for swimming. Taught by her seaman father from childhood, she was certified as a lifeguard and children’s swim coach as a teenager.
But she’s learned over the years that the skill she takes for granted isn’t as accessible to everyone. She recalled inviting young people in the neighbourhood to classes but slowly realising that for many families, swimming lessons were out of reach. She is also concerned that very young children and differently-abled people are too often excluded.
“Overall, Trinidad and Tobago has a low rate of water competency and we experience too many preventable fatalities,” Pierre said. “Children can start learning aquatic survival skills from as early as four months. In the same way, parents protect children by securing them with a seat belt or child-proofing the home, they should ensure that their children learn this life-saving skill.
“Jem’s Strokes Saves Lives” is a decidedly original take on the beauty pageant cause. Pierre is using water competency as a catalyst to promote the holistic development of disenfranchised youth and differently-able children.
“We’re including children with physical disabilities and intellectual disabilities such as autism. What they can’t do does not define them. Even if they are non-verbal or it’s not as easy to execute certain movements, there are skills they can master that would allow them to feel confident and be safe in the water,” Pierre explained.
For the initiative, the 5’ 11” swimming instructor partnered with the T&T Swim Clinic Association, which is contributing resources and expertise, including swim instructors.
“There is a huge knowledge component to water safety,” she explained. The first strategy was to host free online webinars on topics like water safety tips for beginners and what to do if a person gets into difficulty in the water. She also launched a series of videos on social media that would demonstrate beginner swimming and basic life-saving skills.
“We have to adapt and innovate to navigate life during this pandemic. I look forward to welcoming people to the pool to learn in a hands-on way and truly master the skill. But until then there is a lot we can accomplish in terms of raising awareness and education. I hope we can spread the word and avoid another tragic water death during this time.”
Go to Jem’s Strokes Saves Lives on Facebook