Photo Essay

Having a Choice to Live or Die

Photo Essay Having a Choice to Live or Die #1

In 2002, Tim de Wet founded National Lake Rescue Institute (NLRI), which was developed to address the grave issue of loss of life from drowning on the Great Lakes of East Africa.

His vision was to build capacity in local communities through Education, Floatation, Communication and Preventive SAR to help water users understand ways to prevent loss of life, to understand safe boating practices, and to develop a capacity for self help and self rescue.

The vast majority of Ugandans are unable to swim and have a profound fear of water. This is true even among the fishing communities of which these series of photographs are dedicated.

For every fisherman drowned, there are on average 7 dependents left behind. One cannot even comprehend the strain this places on relatives, who have to take over the care of orphaned children.

Kaiso Village is located on the border between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo and this is where we carried out some of our most effective education programmes.

One major contribution to the water using community was to provide them with the opportunity to purchase locally made lifejackets at a subsidised rate of US$10 (they cost approx US$20 each to manufacture).

"Megafloat" was the name of the lifejacket developed by NLRI and it was tested by various search and rescue organisations and deemed to be a safe and effective floatation aid.

Until the development of the Megafloat, lifejackets were rarely found within rural landing sites and therefore not available to the people that needed them the most.

The "Megafloat" brings much needed local employment, but also enables self-help and self-rescue.

Over 1600 Megafloats have been produced since its development in 2006 and many lives saved as a result of them being worn when a boat has capsized either due to overloading, or bad weather.

POST SCRIPT: Unfortunately search and rescue operations have been suspended and for the time being our lifejacket manufacture has also stopped due to a lack of sustained funding. However, we will continue to find ways of securing funding, as we have determined over the years that the lifejacket project is the most effective means of tackling the issue of water safety at a grass roots level. If a person can float, they will survive!

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4 responses

  • Nadeem Shafi

    Nadeem Shafi gave props (2 May 2011):

    Outstanding and compelling photo journalism, focused on a worthy mission. Absolutely should be published!! :)

  • Clare Wise de Wet

    Clare Wise de Wet gave props (3 May 2011):

    Thanks Nadeem. Indeed, I'm biased, as this project has been an integral part of my life for all these years - lots of blood, sweat and tears over this I can tell you! It would be a shame for us to lose all of what we have achieved to date, just because of money!

  • Ronnie Ginnever

    Ronnie Ginnever said (22 May 2011):

    I totally agree with Nadeem Shafi. Thank you for your dedication and for sharing this poignant story.

  • Donna Mullins

    Donna Mullins (Deleted) gave props (25 Jun 2011):

    wonderful story and great photos Clare.

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