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Holding Hands - Ireland's First Water Safety Programme for Pre-School Kids

14th June 2021
Amanda Cambridge with a photo of her son Avery Greene who drowned in a pool in Spain in August 2019.
Amanda Cambridge with a photo of her son Avery Greene who drowned in a pool in Spain in August 2019

The mother of a young boy who drowned during a family holiday in Spain almost two years ago has welcomed a new pre-school programme which aims to encourage small children to think about water safety.

As The Times Ireland reports, Ireland’s first pre-school water safety programme focuses on one simple concept – that a child should always hold an adult’s hand near water.

Published on the eve of national water safety awareness week, which begins today (June 14), it was devised by Water Safety Ireland.(WSI).

It has been sent by WSI to over 4,000 early learning and care centres across the State.

“Nobody goes on holiday and expects not to come back as a whole family,” says Amanda Cambridge, whose contact with the safety body after her son’s death led to initiative.

Avery Greene, from Co Cork, was the youngest of her three children.

She recalled how she had just returned from the pool near their holiday accommodation in August 2019 minutes before the accident occurred.

“My husband Eric was due to arrive that day, so I was tidying up, and I thought Avery was on the couch with his bottle and blanket,” she said.

“The doors of the apartment were closed, but not first I thought he was hiding, but when I went outside a neighbour told me a child had fallen into the pool,” she said.

His heartbroken parents donated Avery’s organs.

“Avery was due to start swimming lessons when we returned home, and we have photos of him with his armbands on which gave him a false sense of security,” she says.

“ That day he thought he could float,” she said.

The “Hold Hands” learning programme involves storyboards which aim to grab children’s imagination - with a pointer shaped like a hand.

It has been endorsed by Minister for Rural and Community Development Heather Humphreys and Minister for Children Roderic O’Gorman.

“A friend of mine, Leanne Maverley from Crosshaven, who was poolside with me in Spain, came up with the idea,”she said.

Early Childhood Ireland and Seas Suas helped with the design, which took 18 months, she said.

Last week, a 22-month old boy was drowned in a paddling pool at his home in Tulsk, Co Roscommon.

“It broke my heart, as I know what they are feeling,” Cambridge said.

WSI chair Martin O’Sullivan noted that an average of ten drownings occur every month in Ireland.

Children have not been able to take lessons in swimming pools over the past year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Imagine how many drownings could be prevented if we can make water safety part of our everyday conversation with children, friends and family,” he said.

Read more in The Times here

Published in Water Safety Team

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