A bunch with a vision

Rizal Faisal

Ever wondered where those people dressed in a blue and yellow tee, cleaning beaches are from? They are a bunch with a vision. They are the Beach Bunch.

The Beach Bunch was started by Mohd Rizan bin Dr Haji Abdul Latif after his surfer friend spoke of often being hit by rubbish while surfing. The pair gathered some friends and organised a clean-up and picnic at the beach on February 15, 2009.

Ten years on, the bunch has done so much and broadened their prospects. However, despite their achievements, they are in need of manpower volunteers.

The Beach Bunch conducted a Drowning Prevention Programme since they first set-up a lifesaving programme two years ago, to develop water- and beach-related community health and safety in Brunei Darussalam.

Since then, they have extended it to lfe-guarding with the goal of drowning prevention.

A beach patrol member with a first aid kit

Before even setting up the programme, the Beach Bunch developed a Coastal Safety Risk Assessment Report for Brunei with Surf Lifesaving Australia in 2014.

In 2017, the Beach Bunch joined the Royal Lifesaving Society and International Lifesaving, which is the world’s leading drowning prevention organisation.

The bunch is also involved with the National Beach Safety Taskforce 2017, which was set-up by His Royal Highness Prince Haji Al-Muhtadee Billah ibni His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah, the Crown Prince and Senior Minister at the Prime Minister’s Office.

The taskforce is chaired by the Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs with involvement from six other ministries.

The Drowning Prevention is conducted through educating the public and raising awareness. It so far covers 20 schools with 400 students who are equipped with skills and knowledge on survival swimming and responsing to rip currents.

Rip current signages have also been installed at Berakas, Meragang, Tungku, Muara and Tanjong Batu beaches to raise awareness on the dangers of rip currents.

At these beaches, the Beach Bunch have also set-up Public Rescue equipment ready for use to save a person in distress.

With the lifesaving programme – which receives support and sponsor from Progresif Sdn Bhd and SC Tubular Solutions (B) Sdn Bhd – the Beach Bunch have trained 50 lifesavers and lifeguards, teaching them how to rescue distressed swimmer and to perform emergency response.

A total of over 150 hours of beach patrol has been conducted with two rescues made and 150 drowning prevention by water safety awareness.

The Beach Bunch believes that ‘No One Should Drown.’

”With all these wonderful programmes, we (Beach Bunch) require more manpower, equipment and funds to run it even better. We seek individuals who are passionate and committed to drowning prevention. Most of our programme members are either swimmers concerned over the growing trends in drowning or have personally had a friend/family member either survive, pass on from drowning or simply would like to prevent drowning. We are all volunteers consisting of regular people who work full time and some are parents,” Rizan said in an interview with the Bulletin.

“We seek more volunteers from the community to join our drowning prevention programme, which starts from a grassroots level. More support from organisations to fund the programme will also help bolster our efforts.

“Developed countries such as Australia began their lifesaving programmes in the early 1900s, and now have more than 180,000 members from as young as five years old. Brunei is still at its infancy age of two years, but we made a good start and intend to keep it going,” he said.

According to statistics compiled by the Beach Bunch from several government agencies, including the Fire and Rescue Department as well as the Ministry of Health, Brunei has seen 48 drowning deaths between 2014 to 2018. The top four locations are beaches, the water village, rivers and swimming pools. Fatalities have mostly surrounded Bruneians at a rate of 71 per cent, followed by Malaysians at 11 per cent and Indonesians at eight per cent.

It mainly occurs in the Brunei-Muara District at a rate of 60 per cent, followed by Tutong District (20 per cent), Belait District (15 per cent) and Temburong District (five per cent).

Half the time these fatalities occurs in a public domain with Tungku Beach (at a rate of 25 per cent), Berakas Beach (15 per cent) and Meragang Beach (15 per cent).

A total of 20 per cent of the fatalities occur at private areas, with hotel swimming pool at 30 per cent.

During a recent Q&A session with Beach Bunch President Mohd Rizan and the Fire and Rescue Department Public Relations Office, Station Officer Andi Karmila Waty binti Haji Abdul Karim advised the public to always be alert when carrying out activities at the beach or in the water.