Five refugees who survived harrowing ordeals at sea are now saving lives in public suburban swimming pools.
The refugees are part of a recruitment program that aims to diversify the team of lifeguards protecting Australians around water.
Mahmood Homaei, 25, recalls the hardship of two weeks in choppy waters as he fled his homeland.
“No food, no drink, no water, no nothing and then the sun was really really strong,” he said.
“[There were] high temperatures in the day and at night it was really really cold.”
For Seyed Karim Hosseini Zadeh, the scenes he witnessed coming to Australia on a rickety boat are all too fresh in his memory.
“I saw some people die so I decided to work as a lifeguard to help people,” he said.
The Iranian-born men are part of a team of newly-arrived refugees graduating as lifeguards.
After completing an intensive course, they are now patrolling public swimming pools in Melbourne’s northern suburbs.
According to Ben Tudehope, who runs Moreland council leisure centres, it’s important for the municipality to employ workers who match the area’s multicultural diversity.
“In the Moreland community English to a large extent isn’t the first language,” he said.
For 21-year-old recruit Mehran Tajbakhsh, there have already been several life and death situations.
“I saved one person. She was a three-year-old girl and then I felt like a hero,” he said.
“She was drowning almost and then I jumped in and I took her out and then I felt incredible after that.”
As well as saving lives around the water, these refugees are also stamping themselves as leaders and key role models in their communities.
David Holland, from Lifesaving Victoria, points to the high number of new migrants and to Australia in the nation’s drowning statistics.
“Mums and dads seeing these guys and girls working around pools can think twice about raising their kids’ level of water safety and also their swimming ability,” he said.
And while they survived treacherous journeys to Australia, these refugees have a common warning to would-be asylum-seekers.
Ghanieh Daghagheleh, 22, said taking to the seas is just too risky.
“Do not come by boat. It’s really dangerous and you might die. One of my friends died,” she said.
Source : SBS