By Regina Youmans
Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death in ages 1-4 and number two in ages 5-9. What if we could significantly decrease childhood accidental drowning? What if every child could be skilled in lifesaving water survival skills? Hand in Hand Water Safety Awareness Foundation is a local foundation whose goal is to serve the community through information and education. The organization is best described by its mission: to equip all people with water safety education and resources to prevent drowning-related accidents.
Hand in Hand wants to see all people skilled in water survival, and they are well on their way to doing just that. Hand in Hand provides funding to low-income families. Parents who are not skilled in Survival Swim are provided with complimentary lessons. Hand in Hand raises funds throughout the year to ensure survival swim is accessible to all. Annually, Hand in Hand hosts an annual Gala, Water Safety Day, the Human Race, and a community yard sale as well as other fundraising events. Through these efforts, Hand in Hand has provided over $90,000 in scholarships to date for children who would otherwise go unskilled.
At the heart of Hand in Hand Water Safety Awareness Foundation is the Executive Director, Darlene Haskins. Darlene is a native of California but has made Kernersville her home. She and her husband have three children. Both Darlene and her oldest son Ryen are Certified Infant Swimming Resource Instructors. Darlene has been a lifeguard and swim instructor since 1995. Darlene established Safe Swim NC, one of the Triad’s leading providers of swim lessons and safety training. Darlene launched the 501(c)(3) nonprofit Hand in Hand Water Safety Awareness Foundation to become more involved in the community and spread the word about water safety and drowning prevention. There are now over 100 volunteers for the organization! Hand in Hand does safety talks at places like pediatrician offices, birthing centers, local businesses, schools, and more.
Hand in Hand’s vision is a world without drowning. They believe that everyone–regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, geographical location, level of education, or socioeconomic status–should have access to water safety education. They envision a future where this knowledge is passed down to younger generations, instilling confidence, and safety in and around water.
In 2017, Darlene traveled across the globe to Uganda to teach survival swim skills to hundreds of Ugandan natives. During her time there, she taught 110 adults and 300 children to swim and float. When Darlene returned home, she was able to get one of her students, Jimmy Wasswa, approved to come to the US and help teach our local community to swim. He was welcomed to Kernersville by the Mayor and was given a welcome package. Jimmy was in North Carolina for six months and was a great help to Hand in Hand. He then was able to return home and pass along the skills learned to his community.
There is a huge difference between swim lessons and survival swim lessons. Hand in Hand promotes only survival swim lessons. Survival swim lessons provide students with the skills they need to survive in water. Infants who are 6 months – 12 months are taught skilled float through the Infant Swimming Resource (ISR) survival swim program. Children ages 6 months to 1 year learn the ISR skill of rolling onto their backs to float, rest, and breathe. They learn to maintain this position until help arrives. Older, more mobile children will learn the full sequence of swimming until they need air, turning onto the back to float, then rolling back over to continue swimming. Students are taught to repeat this sequence until they reach the safety of the steps, side of the pool, or the shoreline. It is vital that children can independently get themselves to a float.
Hand in Hand is spreading the word and educating the community. While being skilled in survival swim is important, Hand in Hand emphasizes four layers of protection for water safety. These layers include effective supervision, barriers, fences, gates, alarms, survival swim lessons, and CPR training.
Hand in Hand educates the community on several aspects of water safety. Many instances of drowning could be avoided if children were skilled in survival swimming. Children who use puddle jumpers and other floatation devices to keep them in a vertical posture actually become more at risk of drowning. This is because flotation devices that keep children in a vertical position give them a false sense of ability in the water as well as the child’s muscle memory forming the habit of treading or “bicycle kick” which is the drowning position.
Hand in Hand is always looking for volunteers and community partners. If you would like to partner with Hand in Hand or donate to the organization, please contact Darlene at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about water safety and survival swim skills please visit their website
www.BeWaterSafe.org. If you are interested in enrolling in swim instruction, visit www.SafeSwimNC.com. For more information on Infant Swimming Resource survival program, visit www.InfantSwim.com.