Life for so many of us can be very ordinary, wonderfully ordinary of course. We were that family in the summer of 2014. But on the 9th of July, everything changed. On his third birthday, our son Jack walked off, slipped into a swimming pool and drowned.
Without Jack, our ordinary lives changed. For his sister, two brothers and for us his parents.
What had started, that morning as a simple working Wednesday with a late start, birthday presents and time together before we carried on a normal day (the birthday had been celebrated the weekend before) ended in rupture and desolation in the screaming silence of Southampton hospital.
In the weeks that followed, we were introspective. Why did we leave him with someone else, how could this happen and what do we do now…..too late. Olivia however, remembered a story of infants and toddlers learning a water survival technique which now came rushing back to her.
In that moment she became single-minded that this survival technique, commonplace in the US, but not available anywhere here in the UK, should be brought to the UK, and the awareness of water safety for infants be raised to a higher level.
Jack had been nick-named by his sister, Ella, ‘Jack-Rabbit’ and so together we set up the Jack Rabbit Foundation with the aim of dealing with both these items. Moreover, starting and then spreading the teaching of this technique across the country. With the two primary directives of the charity easily set we did two things. First, to set the charity vehicle up within the rules and regulations of the PRISM Fund, an established and recognised charity organisation and second to support the name with a recognisable logo. The logo you see here was designed as part of a St Francis School (where Ella and Jack went to nursery/school) competition with this the winning entry from one of the pupils.
We have been very fortunate in the support from the school, friends, family and beyond. In the nearly three years since we started, albeit slowly at first we have raised a good sum of money with multiple events from bike rides and dinners, to school kite flying, individually sponsored events to one property industry group (the Industrial Agents Society) adopting Jack Rabbit as their 2016 charity.
That has allowed Olivia and friend / local swim coach Jo Borthwick to go to Orlando, Florida to attend a course at South West Aquatics to train as teachers in the technique. February is a short month but long enough for two mothers to be away, physically and emotionally in a new world.
In our lives that had seemingly turned so dark, Olivia and I have been very fortunate, and in September 2015 we were blessed with the birth of Zander. A miracle if ever there was one. So Zander, then 17months old travelled with Olivia as did Tom & Lily, Jo’s 3 and 5-year-olds. Each being offered the chance to become the first guinea pigs in their learning.
In those 4 weeks, something special happened. Not least the learning of the extraordinary teachings of proprietor Joy McGinty and her daughter Maureen, but rather the discovery for Olivia, Jo and all of us.
A Eureka moment, if you forgive the pun, because, making all this happen had been Olivia’s drive with Jo’s swim teaching expertise. But for both of them, there has been a revelation of the special closeness of being in a pool with these many, very young children (aged 6 months to 5 years), the bond that the danger of water brings, from trust, discipline, care and endeavour.
10 minutes per child per weekday morning for 4 weeks does this, and for Olivia, the realisation is that this is to be her vocation, her future and her fulfilment. Zander, Tom and Lily can save their own lives now if the worst happens and so many more young lives will now have that same chance.
A return to the UK on the 4th March was immediately followed by the start of their first course at the Help for Hero’s pool, Tedworth House on Monday 6th March. More pools and more courses are planned with the JRF ever looking to support more opportunities across the UK. The vision going forward is to build a facility similar to the training centre in Orlando here in the South West to offer courses and training. We are looking for sponsors and donations to help us achieve our goal.
Nigel & Olivia Rowe
Industry Events Supporting Water Safety Awareness
National Water Safety Week 10th – 16th June
Drowning Prevention Week 16th – 26th June