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FIJIAN LIFESAVER RESCUED BY “LIVING LIFEBUOY”

Let's Swim's Development and Finance Officer Lydia Sogotubu. Image: ABC - Aaron Kearney

Story by: Aaron Kearney, ABC (28/02/2018)

Lydia Sogotubu was at an all-time low when, out of the blue, she took a phone call that would turn her life around and save the lives of untold others as well.

Lydia Sogotubu wasn’t drowning.

But she was in danger of going under.

“I was at a really low time in my life and I was looking for a job,” she recalls.

“I was worried. How am I going to pay the rent?”

She then answered an unexpected call.

Fiji’s Let’s Swim program co-ordinator Trisa Cheer was throwing a lifeline.

A growing number of Fijian children are learning basic swimming skills. Image: ABC – Aaron Kearney

“Out of the blue, Trisa calls me and asks me if I want to take swimming lessons and I was like ‘Ah!’,” Lydia says, beaming.

She parades along the water’s edge at Suva Olympic Pool, scanning messages on her phone, chirping instructions to staff and laughing loudly and often.

Fiji Swimming’s Sports Partnership Co-ordinator Trisa Cheer. Image: ABC – Aaron Kearney

Trisa, her ‘living lifebuoy’, watches on from nearby.

“I knew she was a bright kid,” Trisa says of her gamble on the girl in need.

Now the pair are part of a small army determined to give every Fijian swimming skills, in the hope of losing fewer to drowning.

After a horror year in 2012 when more than 70 people died in Fijian waters, the death toll has been steadily dropping, but between 30 and 50 people are still lost across the Pacific nation each year.

“Everyone says that they know how to swim,” Trisa says.

“When we assess them, it is usually just a doggy paddle or moving their arms in big round circles and swinging their head from side to side and they get tired very easily.

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