Wales

Swansea RNLI man saving Bangladeshi children from drowning

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Media captionDarren Williams explains more about his work in Bangladesh

The memory of two happy little boys playing together is all that is left for the families of Durjoy and Nabir.

The boys' bodies were found face down in the pond they had been seen playing in nearby in the Barisal region of central Bangladesh.

It is thought four-year-old Nabir fell into the deep pond first and his friend Durjoy tried to save him. Both were consumed by the water and drowned.

In Bangladesh, a country known as the "land of rivers" because of the large fast flowing waterways which criss-cross it, there are families all over like Nabir and Durjoys', weeping at the loss of their drowned children.

The country, which has problems with poverty and where much of the available work is agricultural, has one of the highest rates of drowning in the world.

Stories of such preventable deaths inspired RNLI lifeguard Darren Williams to travel from his home in Swansea to try and help.

"Many drownings happen in the rainy season or monsoon, when ditches, holes and fields get flooded, rivers swell and children are left unsupervised as parents work," he said.

"Life revolves around water, as poorer families rely on it for cooking, cleaning, bathing and fishing.

"Tragically, most children drown within 20 metres of their home."

Known for its volunteer lifeboat service, the RNLI also runs an international programme, working to alleviate drowning.

This can often be swimming or safety lessons, but can also include less obvious solutions.

Image copyright RNLI/Mike Lavis
Image caption Darren Williams teaches lifesaving skills in Bangladesh

This includes setting up creches - or anchals - in the local communities of Bangladesh to help keep young children safe while their parents work.

Run by the RNLI's partner organisation, the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research Bangladesh (CIPRB), the creches supervise the children and provide them with early education.

Mr Williams said: "The sessions run all morning, which is the period of time when we know children are most at risk of drowning.

"They are free of charge and allow parents to go to work and provide for their families, knowing their young children are safe."

Since 2005, 3,205 creches have opened across seven sub-districts in rural Bangladesh, supporting 70,000 children aged one to four.

Over the next few years, the RNLI will support the opening of a further 300 creches across the Barisal division of Bangladesh, where there are numerous rivers and canals.

It is hoped 7,500 more young children will be offered places.

Image copyright RNLI
Image caption Children at their anchal where they are supervised while their parents work

A spokesman for the UK Department for International Development - which recently match-funded money raised by the RNLI - said: "40 children drown every day in Bangladesh.

"These are wasted lives, preventable deaths. The RNLI has almost 200 years of lifesaving experience in the UK and Ireland, and their expertise will now change lives globally too. "

As for Mr Williams, the work allows him to capitalise on his love of water.

He said: "I always feel comfortable in and around water, whether I am swimming, surfing or paddle boarding."

Growing up in Swansea, he spent much of his childhood in Langland Bay Lifeguard Club, learning how to become a qualified lifeguard, joining the RNLI and then its international team in 2015. He spends most of his time in Bangladesh.

He said: "It is not a country most people would go on holiday, but I find it amazing.

"But wherever you go, you always find someone who has been affected by drowning, be it their neighbour, or cousin or niece.

"The sheer numbers of deaths globally are staggering but the solutions are often relatively simple, like education, basic swimming skills and covering open sources of water like wells."

Image copyright RNLI
Image caption Mr Williams is part of the RNLI team providing support and technical assistance to lifeguards in Bangladesh

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