Summer is just around the corner, as always on the top of our bucket list of our summer plans is to spend a day with our family at the beach or in a swimming pool. But how sure are we about our safety at the sea? Sharks, stingrays and even jellyfish lurk just beneath the waves. Even more unpredictable are rip currents, body cramps and the possibility of drowning. Even in a swimming pool, the danger of drowning remains. A lifeguard is the person who helps us get through such situations making his job equally important as any other.
Manjula Wickramasingha, 39, a Sri Lankan national, has worked as a lifeguard at the Crowne Plaza Hotel for the past 12 years. He started working as an assistant lifeguard back home, on getting hired from Colombo, he was in the forefront of the job. He never changed his profession.
“Being a lifeguard is such a huge responsibility. I take this job very seriously because the life of every client using our swimming pool is very precious,” he said.
Swimming from childhood
Manjula started training when he was eight years old. “When I was a small boy, I accompanied my father everywhere. In school, I enrolled myself for swimming class. In few weeks I had become great at swimming. I found my love for water and almost every day went to the river to swim,” he said.
As child he also used to compete among his peers in terms of swimming. “I competed in a swimming competition, but I never won any prize. So instead of pursuing a career in swimming, I enrolled in the life saving techniques course which I took for more than a year. This program prepared me to be a life saver which I thought was a good job after school. Indeed I got a good job in a big hotel in Colombo, I become an assistant lifeguard and a fulltime lifeguard later,” he said.
After completing three years in Colombo, Manjula tried his luck abroad. “I have a family friend here in Kuwait who helped me with this job. It was fast, after three months of informing him, he sent me the visa from Crowne Plaza, Kuwait. Since 2005 I have been a lifeguard here,” he said. Before assuming a job as senior life guard and a coach, Manjula also underwent several training courses sponsored by Crowne Plaza.
“They sent me to a training course with the American Lifeguard Association, at an office in Salmiya. Certification is very important before allowing someone for this job. I also took another short course in ‘First Aid.’ I also have the license to apply/secure first aid when things happen,” he said.
Manjula who is married, with two kids, starts his duty at six in the morning till two in the afternoon. Since he is on morning duty, he is in-charge of checking the water clarity, temperature and its mineral contents. “In the morning I check everything in the water; I make sure that the temperature is okay, the chlorine content must be perfect and even the cleanliness of the surroundings. I need to make sure that every client we have is in a comfortable area, everything is neat and clean and all the necessary accessories in the swimming pool are present. I sit on one side, alert and ready for any crisis,” he said.
The life he saved
Manjula has saved a life.
“Some people, although they know how to swim, come across health conditions while in the water. And because of me such accidents can be avoided,” said Manjula adding, “I am trained to save people, so I do my job whole heartedly, I am like superman.”
Thank God, for the past 12 years of his work being a life-guard to his knowledge he only used his skills and lots of trainings once. “A teenager who do not know how to swim accidently went into the deep end of the pool and panicked. Thank God at that time, he was with his friend. When his saw the young man struggling, he immediately call for help. Within seconds I was able to rescue him, though swallowed so much water. If I hadn’t been there, he would be dead,” he recalled.
Besides being a lifeguard, Manjula gives a regular training course for kids. He handles classes for kids aged six to 17 years old and onwards. “It is always good to train children because they easily learn; but I also feel gratified when an old person learns to swim because of me. My heart is totally dedicated to this, and that is what makes this job feel like play to me,” he said.
By Ben Garcia