Written by Dan Jervis-Bardy.
Soon after Matthew Chimu arrived in Adelaide, he saw something that would change his life – and potentially that of many others.
“I saw a documentary that said 45 per cent of drowning people (in Australia) were from overseas,” said Mr Chimu, who fled war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo in 2009.
“I could not swim one metre … but I wanted to do something to help those people.
“I wanted to do that one step that allowed others to follow – I wanted to pave the way.”
Mr Chimu, then 16, joined Henley Beach Surf Life Saving Club, where he learned to swim through the On the Same Wave program.
The program, which Surf Live Saving Australia rolled out across the country after the Cronulla race riots in 2005, aims to teach young refugees and new migrants about beach safety.
Mr Chimu – who proudly declares he can now swim “400m non-stop” – helps teach the course, and will be among the surf lifesavers on hand at the On the Same Wave sessions at Unley Swimming Centre on March 31 and April 3.
The free sessions will be the first time the program has been held at a public pool.
Migrant Resource Centre of SA spokesman Ibrahim Nowrozi, whose organisation is working with Unley Council to organise the course, says water-safety classes are invaluable for new arrivals.
“Most of them (migrant) do not know how to swim, so these classes make them feel more comfortable at the beach,” Mr Nowrozi said.
To register for the classes which are for children aged 8-16, contact Mark Bowes on 8372 5456 or firstname.lastname@example.org.