It is rightly said that as you grow older, you discover that you have two hands; one for helping yourself and the other for helping others. And, what better way to give back to the community than by being part of the efforts of empowering future generations?
Realising this, Goa’s state-appointed lifeguard agency Drishti Marine has implemented a local volunteer programme for youth aged between 18 and 23 years old to assist lifesavers at the beaches.
This volunteer programme is specially designed for college students where they’re trained to respond to first-aid emergencies, recognise various sea conditions and support lifeguards on high-density beaches such as Calangute, Baga, Miramar, Bambolim, Siridao and at the Dudhsagar waterfalls. It is held on the weekends for about two to five hours, to make sure there’s no hindrance to the volunteers’ academics.
“I attend college during the morning half, and then from 3 to 6 pm, I assist in the volunteer programme. I make time to study during the night,” says Kavita Basavaraj Shiraguppi, a 23-year-old volunteer lifesaver at Drishti Marine, who is pursuing her BCom degree at SS Dempo College of Commerce and Economics.
Kavita has always been adventurous, constantly engaging herself in new experiences and developing new skills along the way. She learned about this initiative during the Aapda Mitra training programme, formed by the National Disaster Rescue Authority.
“Such initiatives are helpful for youngsters like me as it lets me pass on the learnings to my younger sibling and other youth in greater detail. This programme has trained me to administer first-aid and conduct patrolling and surveillance on the beaches. I’m now aware of the different beach flags as well as the equipment used at the beach,” mentions Kavita, who is also an active NCC cadet.
She admits that beachgoers should pay more attention to lifeguards on duty and be alert to their announcements. “It’s important for swimmers regardless of their age or ability, to swim in the zones defined by the lifesavers at all times and to adhere to their instructions,” she suggests.
Presently, 10 youngsters, seven women and three men, have been selected for the programme.
“The age group was selected because they’re full of energy and enthusiasm that may be directed toward helping people on the beaches. We wanted to give our youth a chance to be a part of a larger initiative which helps them give back to the community,” says Navin Awasthi, CEO at Drishti Marine Lifesaving.
“During our training, we learned a lot, especially about marine wildlife along the coast such as turtles and jellyfish. Many young people of our generation are caught up in their phones and fail to appreciate nature. Through this initiative I have become more connected to nature and have gone on to improve my communication skills,” mentions Hiren D'Souza, another 23-year-old volunteering at the Drishti Marine.
A youngster from Revora, Hiren has a very tight schedule. From 7 to 8:30 am he volunteers as a traffic warden for the Goa Traffic Police, he then attends college at DMC College in Assagao and after that continues his service as a lifesaver volunteer.
The volunteers at the programme are outfitted in special uniforms during their period of service and on completion are to receive an honorarium for the services rendered, along with a certificate which they can add to their CV for better prospects.
During the programme, volunteers like Hiren are responsible for managing the crowds at the beach. He, particularly, needs to scan and survey the area and contact his superiors at the tower.
“When I was at the Aapda Mitra training programme, I was introduced to the concept of volunteering. I enjoy working for society, and this was especially exciting because apart from keeping people safe, I’d have an opportunity to surround myself with nature along the coast,” Hiren says, sharing he would love to be a permanent member of the team.
As a lifeguard, among other attributes, one needs to be alert and aware of their surroundings while also communicating effectively. "The majority of individuals dive right into the water as if it were a swimming pool. When there is a red flag, I would advise them not to venture into the waters and take the advice of the lifesavers as to where they should swim. People should also avoid drinking and swimming,” he says as he describes some of the violated rules he is required to handle.
Imparting knowledge and skills to future generations through volunteering programmes can help inculcate a sense of responsibility to the community at large. This initiative by the Drishti Marine recognises the potential of the youth while also demonstrating how selfless service can help change the world.