Friday saw the end of the latest Nile Swimmers training programme in Khartoum. The 36 men and women who had been trained as Aquatic Survival Programme Instructors had only one last activity – to teach the ten key water safety messages they had learnt to the Sea Scouts.
At the end of any intensive training programme I find that there is a feeling of emptiness, a gap that the friends and activities of the last two weeks will no longer fill. I will miss these people, who have shared their culture with me, through games, conversations and attempted language lessons.
However, this was different. Although it is the end of the training, it is the beginning of a much more important journey for these participants. This last activity is the first of many lessons that these instructors will go on to teach and walking around the Sea Scouts headquarters, observing the instructors teaching their first lesson, that emptiness diminished. It was a thrill to see participants who had been so quiet at the start of the course coming alive in front of their classes, taking great delight in being able to share what they had learnt with the children, and knowing the difference that they were making.
Over the course of the morning, 207 Sea Scouts were taught those ten key water safety messages and they finished their lessons with songs, dances and plays about them. Even with my still severely limited Arabic, I could pick out individual messages from the plays. These are the first Sudanese children who will benefit from learning the water safety messages of the Aquatic Survival Programme but they certainly will not be the last.
Every instructor on the programme has committed to take part in a project over the next two months that they have designed themselves. These projects focus on spreading those life-saving messages to the wider community, with different project teams working with different groups. Over the next two months, mothers, children involved with the Sudanese Swimming Federation and certain villages close to the Nile where drowning is common, will all be targeted by the instructors as part of these projects.
Every one of these projects will report back on the number of people that they reach in the next two months; and will help to determine which communities are targeted by the instructors as they continue with their teaching. With that in mind, watching those first lessons feels less like the end, and more like the beginning.
Written by Becky.