Emotional Africa trip for surf lifesaver Gwyn

North Devon surf lifesaver Gwyn Lewis is pictured with Ghanaian lifeguards Eric Hector (left) and Ra

North Devon surf lifesaver Gwyn Lewis is pictured with Ghanaian lifeguards Eric Hector (left) and Razak Ayaa Ababio, who have become resident lifeguards at Ghana International School after successfully completing their RLSS Pool Lifeguard Award. - Credit: Archant

Vital swim skills will help tackle Africa’s ‘horrendous’ water safety record.

A NORTH Devon surf lifesaver has been sharing more than four decades of local beach safety experience with young people in Africa.

Gwyn Lewis, from Sticklepath in Barnstaple, travelled to Ghana with a small team of trainers from the Royal Life Saving Society to teach vital swimming, lifeguarding and first aid skills.

The group, led by life saving expert John Sager of Lifeguard International Rescue Training, worked with 10 students from the Ghana International School in Accra as part of an initiative to improve the country’s water safety record.

Gwyn, who been involved in local lifeguarding since starting out as a volunteer in Woolacombe on 1972, said there were up to 10 drownings a day on the Atlantic beaches in Ghana alone.

“At present the statistics are horrendous in Africa,” said Gwyn, 55.

“On arrival the scale of the job was made startlingly clear when many of the candidates were found to be non-swimmers.

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“It was a real eye opener for me to witness non-swimmers teaching children how to swim.

“I struggled to change their attitude to start with but by the end of the week they were really buying into the need to learn to swim themselves.”

By the end of the trip, seven of the 10 candidates gained pool lifeguard awards and all 10 passed their first aid qualification.

“Probably the most touching moment of the whole trip was when a young teacher at the school succeeded in swimming a length of front crawl for the first time – it was very emotional for all of us,” said Gwyn.

“I have been moved by the efforts of the Ghanaians in their struggle to improve the water safety record in their country.

“We will return as both awards must be re-qualified in two years’ time and I am looking forward to seeing how things have developed after planting the seed.”

During the trip, the group also advised the British High Commission’s Anti Child Trafficking Unit on setting up a swimming course for its officers.

“At present many kidnapped children are drowning when pirates are challenged and the officers are unable to affect rescues without drowning themselves,” said Gwyn.

“It is hoped that the newly qualified lifeguards in Accra will be instrumental in helping the unit to learn basic swimming techniques and survival strategies.

“The knock on effect should mean less children being trafficked to the UK.”

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