One of the main stumbling blocks of most of the children who want to join our ocean-based programmes at SOA, is that they are at risk of drowning in the ocean due to limited exposure, awareness and swimming skills. Therefore, one of our main objectives at the moment, is to teach children from low-income coastal communities, basic ocean safety awareness and practical swimming skills. Through our Turn the Tide Programme we hope to reduce the risk of drowning when swimming in the ocean. Our programme takes place over 8 weeks, with a 1.5 hour session per group, per week. Each session includes basic theory on oceanography such as waves, tides, currents, wind, and also includes topics such as marine plastic pollution, marine creatures that they are likely to encounter, and ocean safety tips.
Each theory topic is presented in a fun and engaging way and includes games and practical demonstrations. An important component of each session is mindfulness activities which we use to help connect the children to the ocean, to their breath and teaches them calming strategies and resilience skills which they can practice at home. Ocean awareness combined with practical and fun swimming skill training, helps to empower the children so that they can participate safely in ocean-related activities, and begin to forge a strong spiritual connection with the ocean. We are achieving this in conjunction with using a train-the-trainer approach, where we support the training of some of the senior members from the Hout Bay Surf Lifesaving Club, along with other members of the Imizamo Yethu and Hangberg communities to become assistant coaches and later on, instructors in this programme. They will then be able to offer more classes to the broader community.