On a recent Wednesday afternoon, when a powerful thunderstorm darkened the sky over Cambodia‘s capital, Phnom Penh, children were still playing in the city’s outdoor Olympic-size pool. No one â€“ not even the staff who were supposed to be watching them â€“ told them to get out of the water.
British lifeguard and swim instructor David Hunt couldn’t help but notice. “You feel responsible when you know it shouldn’t be happening,” he says.
In all likelihood the “lifeguards” working at the country’s largest swimming pool were not trained. Sometimes they appeared to be sleeping in their chairs. That they were there at all is remarkable: Most people who come to Cambodia never encounter a lifeguard.
That’s because there is no lifeguard training course for Cambodian nationals in this small country. Cori Parks, an American instructor who runs the only lifeguard training program in Cambodia, caters to expatriates and hasn’t certified a single Cambodian â€“ ever. The course she offers costs $350 â€“ three times the average monthly salary here.
But Mr. Hunt â€“ who has taught hundreds of children to swim since arriving in the country seven years ago â€“ has recently started training Cambodia’s first generation of swimmers who will know how to save someone in trouble in the water.
This school year he introduced a lifeguard training program at the iCAN British International School in Phnom Penh, where he works. The 30 teenagers in his class learned how to rescue someone using a rope, administer first aid, and retrieve and resuscitate an unconscious victim. They also know what to do if a boat capsizes, and how to help without endangering themselves.