‘Selfless, humble, respectful’
These three words vividly describe the lifesavers of Japan, and will resonant with me in my memories of them, and this year’s Japan Lifesaving Exchange Program for many years to come.
There were many highlights along the journey, yet the one which topped the lot occurred mid-way through our involvement with the Iwai School Education Programs. Despite my limited knowledge of Japanese I was able to lead a number of sessions with groups of 13 year school children focusing on familiarisation and appreciation of the beach, self preservation and setting personal challenges. Many of them had never been to the beach before let alone felt comfortable in the salt water and being hit by (small) waves.
I concentrated on refining my English to simple commands paired with plenty of demonstrations – it seemed to be received well! The next day I was approached by one of our head instructions who explained that the headmaster of the school had commented on my ability to successfully encourage a number of girls in my previous group to have the confidence to submerse themselves completely under water for the very first time. I was pretty stoked with this effort!
There was no doubt that teamwork, communication, and leadership skills were developed throughout this trip. I was constantly amazed at the support and friendly nature of my three fellow Australian lifesavers. I was lucky to be surrounded by like-minded people who complimented my personality and enriched the entire exchange experience. We shared each experience with a light hearted nature, the urge to push ourselves out of our comfort zones all with smiles on our faces. I will forever value the saying ‘surround yourself with good intelligent kind-hearted positive loving people’.
My advice for future participants is to embrace every opportunity that is given to you throughout the exchange whether meeting dignitaries, delivering a speech in front of a crowd or finally tasting that unique looking delicacy that appears on your breakfast platter each morning.
Take the time to stop and listen to all of the people you meet and appreciate the truly unique environment surrounding you.