In the October 2013 edition of LIFE LINE we reported on an event hosted by new IMRF Members the Life Saving Association of Sri Lanka (LSASL). The meeting was a great success, attended by some 40 regional coordinators, rescue volunteers and other SAR service representatives.
Now LSASL Secretary General Asanka Nanayakkara writes to tell us some more about his organisation.
We are the national body for lifesaving and water safety in Sri Lanka, conducting many programmes in water safety and drowning prevention. These projects are mainly focused on schoolchildren in our country. We are the only body authorised to conduct such programmes in Sri Lanka.
The Life Saving Association of Sri Lanka is affiliated to the International Life Saving Federation (ILS), Commonwealth Life Saving (Royal LS-UK), and now the IMRF, and is an approved Sri Lankan charity. We are also registered with the Ministry of Sports and the Ministry of Social Services as a not-for-profit sporting and welfare body.
From the day the Association started its activities, in 1947, it has recorded over 4000 lives saved in various water distress situations. We are very proud to acknowledge that we have trained over a million members from the public sector including schoolchildren, armed and police forces, free of charge as an important part of our activities.
The LSASL is well supported by Surf Life Saving Australia. Improving beach safety is one of our primary objectives: this will help to develop tourist activities in turn, a major focus of Sri Lankan government and non-governmental organisations.
Sri Lanka has a coastline of 1,340 km, with many pristine beaches where safety is at a higher levelyear-on-year. However, in some instances, beaches, lakes and bathing tanks can be hazardous, with members of the community taking to the water with limited or no knowledge of water safety issues.
One of the biggest lifesaving and water safety activities that the Association organises, apart from its regular activities for the furtherance of community water safety, is the safety programme we run during the Poson Poya religious festival.
Poson Poya is one of the most important religious ceremonies for Buddhists in Sri Lanka. It is ritually celebrated in the month of June especially, in an ancient city called Anuradhapura. The area is full of water tanks and satisfies the sanitary requirements of the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who arrive during the festive season for their religious sacraments.
LSASL respectfully engaged with the water safety issue and arranged a programme to ensure safety during the festival. We deployed a crew of 200 unpaid lifesavers, with 400 paid lifeguards also coming in from all over the country. The primary objective of this programme was to save people from drowning.
The secondary objective was to conduct training sessions for the beginners and schoolchildren who live in the vicinity of Anuradhapura.The training sessions include the methods that we use in first aid, resuscitation and other lifesaving techniques.
The Association has been fully engaged in this humanitarian service for the last 20-plus years, with the full support and appreciation of both government and non-governmental organisations. This time around at Poson Poya, the Association managed to save EIGHT valuable lives.