The weather is warming up. Usually this means pool time and trips to the beach, but have you learned the proper lifesaving skills to ensure your safety in the water? The month of May is only a few days away and is recognized as National Water Safety Month, an annual awareness campaign that aims to ensure all families are water competent. This means being water smart, having swimming skills and knowing how to help others.
While recent national data from the USA Swimming Foundation shows a 5-10 percent increase in swimming abilities among young people, children in minority communities continue to have disproportionately no/low swimming ability.
Minority communities, especially the black community, faces unique water safety challenges. Data shows 64 percent of African-American children possess poor swimming ability, compared to 40 percent of Caucasian children. This puts black children at a greater risk of drowning.
Many factors contribute to this disparity. Been Worthy sat down with Drowning Prevention Advocate Rosette Boloko to talk about this topic, her mission to bridge the minority swimming gap and her efforts to help black families in North America.
How old were you when you learned how to swim?
I probably learned how to swim around the age of 12. We had an incident within our family due to drowning, so I’ve been very passionate about making sure that other families stay safe, especially new Canadians that are coming to the Country who don’t have the resources to learn how to swim properly.
What’s the biggest mistake that we make in the black community when it comes to water safety?
I think the biggest mistake is not erolling our kids into swimming lessons early on. We tend to wait until our kids are teenagers, and you want to get them enrolled when their young. Another big mistake is underestimating water. People think that you can just go and swim and everything will be fine. There are actual techniques and skills that you need to have to keep yourself safe in water, as well as your kids.
What are the benefits of learning how to swim early?
Staying safe and having the ability to help others and prevent them from drowning. Water safety is a necessary life skill. You never know when you’re gonna find yourself in a body of water.
You provide educational workshops. What type of information do you share with your audiences?
My workshop starts off with talking about the importance of water safety. We address the reasons parents haven’t brought their kids out to learn how to swim and what barriers may have gotten in the way, such as lack of resources, not knowing where to go or transportation . It’s just having a dialogue to see how I can help depending on their location and specific needs.
Tell me about your partnership with the Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition.
I am civic stakeholder with the Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition, through this partnership I’ve been proud of the information I’ve been able to give out, specifically the resources, reassurance and motivation that I’ve been able to give parents to know that swimming is important and they should prioritize teaching their kids.
What are some of the resources available to those interested in water safety skills?
Right now I’m in the city of Toronto, so if you go on their website they do have a recreation tab that you can click on and they provide a list of resources for water, swimming and pool passes all throughout the city. You can also contact the Canadian Drowning Prevention Coalition. We work Canada-wide all throughout the provinces here. There’s also the Life Saving Society of Ontario as well as Canada. There all different types of organizations you can get in contact with, but I would check to see what’s available in your city via your city’s website.
What’s been your favorite part of educating black families in water safety?
My favorite part is defnietly talking to the parents – giving them reassurance, sharing my story and letting them know how important it is to be safe in water.
What are you looking forward to accomplishing with the work that you’re doing?
Right now my plans are just to increase awareness. I’m also working on my own non profit organization right now that will give me the ability to reach more new Canadians in the area within the black community. We don’t really have that in Canada right now. I think there needs to be more of a focus into the minority community. I’ve found that we are the most at risk in terms of water safety, we drown the fastest and it’s really affecting our community.
On a more personal note, in your bio on Instagram you share the bible verse John 3:16. What does this verse mean to you?
I’m a Christian. I’ve been a Christian all my life. I think God has played an important role in my life. Even with what I’m doing right now, I believe that you’ve got to know your purpose. I feel that the Lord has revealed part of my purpose to me. This bible verse is something I always keep in the back of my mind. It’s God first for me always.