On March 11 last year, Japan experienced a major earthquake, the disastrous consequences of which devastated many of its communities.
Miles away, I remember watching as television crews played footage of the tsunami that had taken so many lives, and destroyed many others. My heart ached for the families that were separated, unable to provide food or shelter for themselves amidst the wreckage. I waited in prayerful anticipation for the news that my best friend, who lives in Japan with her family, was safe.
At the same time, I knew that I was not the only one burdened with worry. When I finally did receive the phone call that let me know she was safe, I thought of all the people caught in the middle of the disaster who had no way of knowing whether their loved ones were alive.
Witnessing the horrible aftermath of this earthquake I remember being amazed at how quickly the world rallied in support of the traumatized country. Help was immediately sent; aid was given in the form of donations, volunteers and supplies. The country itself appeared to handle the emergency quite capably, a result no doubt, of years of planning and preparation. Needless to say, I was impressed by the compassion created in the face of this crisis, which served as a powerful reminder of the earthquake I knew our shoreline is expecting at any time.
I began to think of what I could do to help. If I had learned one thing from the Japan disaster it was that preparation saves lives. I asked myself what resources I had to offer, a university student and a lifeguard, I wasn’t completely sure how I could make a difference.
My mind kept turning to the idea of compassion and how it spreads from person to person when emergency strikes. Ironically, it took the form of a wave in my brain. Waves. Saving lives. Lifeguards. A plan began to take shape. Why couldn’t I organize an event with the lifeguard staff?
The guards I work with are some of the most compassionate people I know. Their jobs involve educating and protecting people in the community. Excited, I rushed to tell the first lifeguards I saw. The response they gave me was encouraging; one woman in particular suggested that we organize a swimathon to raise money. As lifeguards we work closely with the Red Cross, why not show our support by hosting a fundraiser that benefited their natural disaster management programs in B.C.? The seed had been planted and it had begun to take root. The swimathon event, Wave of Compassion, was born.
Organized completely on a volunteer basis, Wave of Compassion is a lifeguard swimathon that is to take place on Saturday, July 28 at the Walnut Grove Community Centre from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
During this time, teams of lifeguards will swim to raise support for local Red Cross disaster management programs that respond to emergencies throughout B.C. These emergencies include, but are not limited to, earthquakes, flooding and fires. The money raised goes into the training of local volunteers, purchasing supplies and facilities for disaster relief. Although the public is not to be involved in the swimming itself, there are going to be activities held during the swimathon that are meant to increase emergency preparedness and awareness for different disasters.
Kids and adults are welcome to participate for the opportunity to win free prizes. You can show your support for the lifeguards by donating online at www.redcross/waveofcompassion. If you own a business and would like to sponsor this event, either financially or through prizes, please call the Walnut Grove Community Centre (604) 882-0408 and ask for me, or leave a message for me.
I would like to thank our current sponsors, the Langley Adidas Outlet Store, Old Navy, McBurney Junction, Coles Books, The Body Shop, Higher Ground, Starbucks, Save on Foods, Best Buy, Purdy’s Chocolates and Chatters hair salon for their contributions.
By supporting disaster management programs we are not only preparing our communities for earthquakes, but any disasters that can and do occur. In the past, Red Cross has responded to flooding emergencies and forest fires, working in conjunction with local governments to care for those who are affected. In 2008 they assisted with the Chilliwack floods, providing clean-up kits and reviewing financial appeals. In 2007, they responded to B.C. flooding and a plane crash in Richmond.
More recently, they were on alert for the flooding that occurred around the Lower Mainland.
From call centres to supplies, shelter and first aid, Red Cross volunteers are dedicated to restoring upset communities. By investing in their programs we are investing in our own neighborhoods, which are benefiting from the provisions available and the training of more volunteers. This lifeguard swimathon is merely a continuation of the wave of support they have already started.
It is our hope that this event will increase community awareness, giving attention to the importance of emergency preparedness. It would be easy to forget the disaster that took place a year and a half ago, or ignore those taking place around us, but forgetting accomplishes nothing. By working together we can ensure that when disaster strikes our communities, we will be better prepared to handle it. As lifeguards in Langley, we care about the people we meet everyday. We are asking you to partner with us in this effort, and hopefully, through this wave of compassion, together we can save lives.