Senegal is on the Atlantic coast, where heavy surf pounds its shores and treacherous currents are common.
A lifeguard watches over children in the sea at Yoff Beach, Senegal

Photo: Mike Lavis

Senegal’s capital city, Dakar, is surrounded by water on 3 sides. This beautiful but dangerous stretch of coastline is where many Senegalese people come to work and play. Here, education is a privilege and basic swimming lessons are beyond most people’s means. 

There were some massive waves and really big swell coming in. When you were standing in knee-deep water at the beach, you could barely stand up as the water was going out, because the current was so strong. It was one of the strongest currents I’ve ever been in

Not long before we started our training work in Dakar, nine young boys drowned off the coast there. They had been playing in the water when a current dragged them out to sea. There were no lifeguards to save them. Sadly, these kind of tragedies are part of Senegal’s day-to-day story.

Together we can make them history.

As lifeguards, we need people to train us, who can give us new knowledge and who can help us to inspire new lifeguards. When lifeguards learn new things, it makes them love their job, gives them new skills and motivates them further to be good at what they do-because a lifeguard who knows what he is doing is someone who is very proud of his job.
An RNLI trainer teaches rescue techniques to lifeguards in Senegal

Photo: Mike Lavis

An RNLI trainer teaches rescue techniques to lifeguards in Senegal

The difference we’ve made

Before we began working with them, a small group of 15 lifesavers had been watching over the thousands of daily visitors to Yoff Beach, Dakar, with limited experience and equipment. Their dedication was unquestionable, but the numbers were daunting and the resources for training programmes just weren’t in place.

Since our first visit in 2012, Senegalese lifeguards have been running a full service at the beach, using the skills they learned on our training programme. Two RNLI trainers returned in November 2013 and November 2014 for 2 weeks each visit. They’ve trained 58 lifeguards and 6 instructors, who can now provide local lifeguard courses themselves.

An RNLI team plans to return to the Senegal to provide the next phase (teaching local instructors how to deliver Train the Trainer courses).

RNLI Lifeguard Trainer Tim Doran’s 2012 video diary from Senegal