Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka)
Saving 5 lives at the age of 11: Arham Faiz, Sri Lanka’s youngest lifesaver
According to WHO, drowning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury/death globally. The Sri Lanka Drowning Report 2020 issued in January reveals that in Sri Lanka, an average of 755 drowning related deaths are reported annually, and that drowning is the leading cause of death among children aged 1- 14. In this backdrop, it would be notable to note that Sri Lanka probably has the youngest lifesaver in the world. Arham Faiz, a 11-yearold, is hailed as the youngest lifesaver in Sri Lanka. Faiz has currently saved 5 lives and had also single handedly managed to push an abandoned 200L oil barrel from the deep sea to the shore in Mount Lavinia.
Faiz, has been swimming under the guidance of his swimming coach, Mr. Chamara Waduge, from the age of 4. He ventured into lifesaving at the age of 8, under the guidance of Mr. Sumith Somikelum, his lifesaving coach. His father, Mr. A.C.M. Faiz, stated that he trained Faiz to swim in the sea from the age of 6. Constantly hearing news regarding drowning and drowning related deaths made Mr. Faiz want his son to become a lifesaver. “As Faiz was a good swimmer and showed an interest in swimming in the sea, I asked him if he would like to pursue lifesaving and he agreed,” he said. His coach, Mr. Waduge confided that though Faiz was a good swimmer he would always come last in the swimming meets. “Despite his defeats, Faiz would participate in every swimming meet,” Mr. Waduge said and added that once he had scolded Faiz for being mischievous and coming last at every swimming meet. “I had told him that I would tell his father to pull him out of the club and that I wouldn’t enter him in to anymore swimming meets. That instant, Faiz pleaded with me to let him try one more time and that he would do better. At that moment, I knew that he was a determined child,” he recalled. Noticing how Faiz showed no fear while swimming in the sea and his passion for diving from greater heights, led Mr. Waduge to request Faiz to be a lifesaver at the swimming meets. He disclosed that Faiz was very enthusiastic about that. For his support in saving children from drowning in the swimming meet, Faiz was awarded the ‘Life Guard and Water Rescue’ trophy at the CH Academy Swimming Meet. He also shared that Faiz had won a bronze medal at the 2018 Desert Cub Swimming Meet in Sharjah, UAE.
Though he was a good swimmer he would always come last in the swimming meets
Faiz was awarded the ‘Life Guard and Water Rescue’ trophy at the CH Academy Swimming Meet
“I can go around 1520ft without oxygen in the deep sea,”
STARTING THE LIFE SAVING JOURNEY
Speaking to Daily Mirror, Faiz recalled that he first met Mr. Somikelum when he was on a family trip, at Galle Fort. Faiz had swum in the sea without fear, which caught the eye of Mr. Somikelum who had approached him and his father asking if he’d like to train as a lifesaver. “In Sri Lanka, around 3 people drown per day and 1,095 people drown annually. In this backdrop, lifesavers are very crucial in this country and training them from a young age is beneficial,” he stated. Currently Faiz has completed his fourth exam on lifesaving and has to wait until he is 18, to become a licensed lifesaver. Faiz had also competed in the 2 mile races at Sri Lanka Navy Lifesaving School, Balapitiya in 2019 and 2020 and was the youngest competitor in the race. “Though Faiz didn’t win the races, he was able to swim for 2 miles,” stated Mr. Somikelum.
Faiz stated that his love for water and the sea began at the age of 3, when he used to go with his father to play in the beach. “Since then, I’ve always loved going to the beach and swimming in the sea. I can now swim 4-5km into the sea and back,” shared Faiz. He is also able to dive in the sea and spends around two and half hours in the deep sea. “I can go around 15-20ft without oxygen in the deep sea,” said Faiz recalling an incident where he dived to see a sunken ship in Panadura. “Once there was this object bobbing up and down in the water at the Mount Lavinia beach, I then swam to it to discover that it was an oil barrel. I managed to bring it from the deep sea to the shore,” he stated proudly, while his father said that the Sri Lankan Navy had applauded his heroics. He also assists the Sri Lankan Navy in their coastal clean-up efforts.
In Sri Lanka, around 3 people drown per day and 1,095 people drown annually. In this backdrop, lifesavers are very crucial in this country and training them from a young age is beneficial,”
Faiz also divulged that he just felt happy when rescuing people, as he is able to save a life. After rescuing the person, CPR is performed on the rescued person on the shore. Though Faiz had completed his CPR training, he is unable to perform CPR for adults but is able to do for children.
Other than lifesaving, Faiz is also passionate about sea life especially regarding different species of fish and is highly motivated by the work of Asha de Vos. “I love going to the deep sea and looking at the sea life, which I often do,” he remarked.
When asked how he manages his training and schooling, Faiz shared that he would train every day from 5am-7am under the guidance of Mr. Waduge and would then leave for school. During the weekends, he does lifesaving training under the guidance of Mr. Somikelum.
A MESSAGE TO YOUNG LIFESAVING ENTHUSIASTS
“If you want to become a lifesaver, you have to be brave and determined,” revealed Faiz, while adding that one has to be consistent in their training and love for the sea. He also reckoned that one has to be alert, as lifesavers are required to be quick and alert.