ISLA President Henry Reyes and I (International Relations Manager William Koon) traveled to Washington D.C. last week to take part in a congressional briefing aimed at bringing awareness to the complicated public health issue of drowning in America and around the globe.
Shaun Anderson and Nate Tschohl from USA Swimming organized the briefing with the intent of presenting a focused and unified message on the importance of drowning awareness and water safety/swim education from different representatives of the drowning prevention community.
Henry and I presented as part of a larger group that included representatives from USA Swimming, The Josh Project, The American Red Cross, The YMCA, The Boys and Girls Club of America, The United States Olympic Committee, The Consumer Products Board, The Center for Safe and Healthy Schools, and the American Association for Physical Activity and Recreation.
We had the privilege and honor of representing the National Drowning Prevention Alliance (NDPA) and ISLA at the briefing, where we presented on the drowning epidemic worldwide, the present statistics that reflect the drowning situation in America, NDPA drowning prevention work, ISLA lifeguard development projects, and the Global Drowning Tracker®.
We pushed the importance of complete and reliable drowning data, as it is vital for drowning prevention groups, foundations, or agencies to be able to improve their own programs and targeted intervention efforts. The Global Drowning Tracker® was brought up on a screen for the present members and representatives to see the visual interface and high tech data reporting software, and how to use it. It was extremely well received, and people were blown away at how a drowning event could be represented digitally for awareness and statistic purposes.
We also had the opportunity to promote the NDPA and The Safer 3 Water Safety Foundation’s Safer 3 Early Education Drowning Prevention Program, a free early childhood education curriculum that focuses on the importance of the Safer 3 program: Safer Kids, Safer Water, and Safer Response. The NDPA Safer 3 Early Education Drowning Prevention Program is currently in use by several New York Public School Districts and United States Marine Corps Community Recreation Section installations.
In addition to the briefing, Henry and I met with Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, representative of the 48th district of California (Seal Beach, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna beach, Santa Ana, Costa Mesa). An avid surfer and waterman, Congressman Rohrabacher was intrigued by ISLA’s mission and the Global Drowning Tracker® as an important tool in global drowning prevention efforts. Congressman Rohrabacher was excited at the chance to help ISLA, and offered advice and connections to the organization in their pursuit of curbing global drowning rates.
On our last day, Henry and I had the opportunity to run around the mall and check out all the monuments…what would D.C. be without a little touring!? We did a power lap to see as much as we could and still make our flight, visiting all the major monuments, the white house, the capitol building (again), and several other federal buildings in about 3 1/2 hours.
While walking through the mall, Henry and I both reflected on how many capitols we had been to together while working on ISLA projects (Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Peru, Chile, Argentina), but how we had never visited our own. For all the places we have been and the work we have done, there is nothing quite like standing in front of your own capitol building and seeing your own monuments. Our D.C. experience was a whirlwind adventure, the opportunity of a lifetime, and an ISLA memory I will carry with me for a long time.
I would like to give a huge thanks to ISLA volunteer (Nicaragua 2012 and 2013) and Corolla Ocean Lifeguard Nick Mitchell for hosting us at his home in Washington D.C. during our time in the city. Nick let us surf on his couch and showed us a great time in his Georgetown neighborhood!