Stories from a first time ISLA volunteer

ISLA Lifeguards

Taylor McGowan with his DR team of ISLA lifeguards

I’m Taylor McGowan and I’m an Open Water Lifeguard I for the city of Los Angeles. I was practically raised on the beach, and I was a junior lifeguard for Los Angeles County for eight years before I became a lifeguard. It’s in my blood; both my dad and brother are lifeguards. I really enjoy lifeguarding and anything ocean related, and I am overjoyed to be a part of ISLA.

I got involved with ISLA because my brother, Morgan McGowan, is the Manager of National Relations. I saw what he was doing with the organization and felt I could also contribute. I had the lifeguard experience and the desire to help those in need. It was the perfect opportunity to do something great, to be someone great.

What interests me the most about ISLA is how their work is done in the true spirit of lifeguarding, and not for a monetary return. The volunteers pay their own way for the trips, a real testament to what this association stands for. All of the people I’ve met within ISLA aren’t lifeguards because the job pays well. The ISLA lifeguards really strive to make a difference in the world, and that is why I am a member.

To get ready for my trip to the Dominican Republic, I did some research and I found out that they have a pretty high drowning rate and that Semana Santa is probably one of the craziest things I would ever see. It was.

Upon arrival, I was caught off guard by how different it was from the United States. It seemed like organized chaos; feral dogs roamed everywhere, people walked on major highways and crowds were everywhere.

Despite our successful trip during Semana Santa, the trip could be summed up by Murphy’s Law; anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Our flights were delayed. We constantly moved from place to place to find somewhere to sleep. The computer went haywire and deleted our presentation for the workshops. The military tried closing the beach and we dealt with some hostile crowds. But despite the chaos…I wouldn’t change a thing. This trip tested me as a lifeguard, an instructor and – most of all – as a person. I experienced things I never could have imagined, saw unbelievable sights, and met amazing people.

ISLA will continue educating motivated Dominicans in rescue skills and oceanic safety, so they can share that knowledge with their families and communities. Showing our Dominican friends and partners that most drowning situations are completely preventable with trained lifeguards and effective education programs is key to cultivating a water culture and aquatic safety awareness.   By using our talents and skills as waterman and lifeguards, we were able show our friends in the DR that they can use their passions for the water to help people and save lives.  It was inspiring to meet folks who are dedicated to reducing drowning in their country and those who are determined to make professional lifeguarding the norm in the Dominican Republic. I can’t wait to go back with ISLA and help them make that dream a reality!


For more information about ISLA Projects in the Dominican Republic visit the DR Project Page.