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Early on a Monday morning, a group of young men are poised for a race on Hout Bay beach. Their breathing is heavy, having just completed a round of push ups, and the hot sun glistens off the sand on their backs. The signal is given and they are off, surging forward at pace towards the ocean and there is a crash of splashes as they dive in and begin their swim.

The trainees undergo serious physical training to become lifesavers.

These men are training to become lifesavers.

As part of an initiative launched by Oceans Alive, a non-profit organisation committed to protecting the ocean, 32 young men and women from Hangberg and Imizamo Yethu are participating in a 6-month lifesaving training programme in Hout Bay. The training, which involves 20 tough physical lessons a week, will officially certify the participants as lifesavers and guarantee them employment for two seasons after completing their final test.

The trainees do a combination of physical training while also learning important lifesaving signals

‘We can only truly achieve conservation if we start by uplifting our communities,’ explains Colin Levin, CEO of Oceans Alive, ‘and that’s exactly what we’re trying to do.’

Colin explains that the ocean is our planet’s life support system. Covering 70% of the Earth’s surface, it generates up to 50% of the oxygen we need and is home to 80% of all life. The ocean is also a vital source of food and economic activity, so developing a respectful relationship between people and the ocean is vital. This is exactly what Oceans Alive aims to do through their beach clean ups, awareness campaigns, and training and educational programs.

‘We started the lifesaver training so we could keep the oceans clean and the people safe,’ comments Chris Sparks, veteran lifesaver and trainer.

Veteran lifesaver Chris Sparks believes that training provides hope for the community.

He explains that the first phase of training is body fitness, ensuring the trainees have the physical strength and endurance to be a lifesaver. But after the first few lessons, Chris noticed that many of the trainees were struggling to keep up. The problem? Nutrition.

‘Nutrition is vital to training the body,’ explains Chris. ‘Many of the trainees come from disadvantaged backgrounds and we realised they didn’t have access to the healthy food needed to build their strength. We had to do something.’

So Love in a Bowl decided to get involved.

Since March 2021, Love in a Bowl has been providing Oceans Alive with 30 kg of organic, nutritious vegetables each week. The vegetables are divided into home packs for each of the trainees, ensuring everyone gets the essential nutrition they need to be top performers in their training.

The trainees receive nutritious, organic vegetables from Love in a Bowl to support their training.

‘The vegetables are great,’ comments Dane Afrika, one of the trainees. ‘Most of us don’t have jobs so it’s difficult to get healthy food. Since we started getting these vegetables, I’ve become more aware of the things I put in my body, of the importance of being strong. I’ve even started juicing!’

Dane explains the importance of the training on his life.

‘Before, I was just sitting at home doing nothing but now I’m part of something. I’m learning about the ocean, I’m training my body, I’m being healthy. This training helps to keep us focused on what’s important, it helps us to get where we want to be. I feel like I’m part of a community that’s focused on something good.’

And building this sense of community is what it’s all about.

‘The partnership we have with Love in a Bowl to support these young trainees is just wonderful,’ remarks Colin. ‘Spreading the love is what it’s all about. We need to work together. When we hold hands and support each other we start to uplift our community, and then we can expand in ways we didn’t even know possible.’

As the trainees continue their swim in the brisk ocean water, one thing is clear: we are all connected, the land to the ocean to the people. These kind of partnerships are exactly what we need to make positive change in Hout Bay and we all have a role to play – we just need to dive in.

Some of the trainees on Hout Bay beach.

Find out more about Oceans Alive on their website or follow their Facebook page to find out how you can get involved with protecting the oceans.

Article and photos by Kiara Worth