Australia

Lifeguards from Gaza are learning new skills on Sydney beaches

Mohammed Saleh visited Sydney from Gaza. Source: SBS News

Two men from Gaza are learning new skills on Sydney beaches which may save lives back home.

Hasan Alhabil is one of Gaza's few lifeguards.

He's come to Sydney to learn some new skills at our Surf Life Saving clubs and will try to get his Bronze Medallion, the minimum requirement to be a lifeguard in Australia.

Mr Alhabil told SBS News the skills he learns here will help him to save more lives in Gaza.

"When I go back to Gaza, I'm going to implant the idea of people organising themselves and following the rules and that will help reduce drownings," he said.

Hasan Alhabil at  Manly Beach.
Hasan Alhabil at Manly Beach.
SBS News

"I'm training by swimming, running and learning to surf. Surfing will help me save people who are drowning."

Mr Alhabil said he's also taken an interest in the Nippers program at North Steyne Surf Life Saving Club on Manly Beach.

"The idea is based on how to raise kids. Australian kids are raised to be able to swim and surf from a young age and they can save others," he said.

Mohammed Saleh, who came with Mr Alhabil from Gaza, is also interested in Australia's Nippers program.

In fact, he said he wants to set up the first Nippers program in his home city.

"We will try to adopt the culture of Surf Life Saving from Australia," he said.

"We will benefit from what we learned at the North Steyne club, teaching kids through games and by enjoying the beaches."

Mr Saleh said he's felt very welcome by the clubs in Sydney that have been teaching him so much and by the wider Australian community.

"Australia is a beautiful country. People are welcoming to us and kind to us, especially in Manly."

Australia is a beautiful country. People are welcoming to us.

Mohammed Saleh

Although they're enjoying their time in Australia now, it wasn't easy to get Mr Alhabil and Mr Saleh here.

Shamikh Badra from the Northern Beaches Committee for Palestine said it has been nearly a four year process to get the pair to Australia.

"When you invite people from Gaza to leave, it is not easy to travel," he said.

"But finally we succeeded in bringing two Palestinians to come to Manly to learn about the Nippers program and surfing, and try to develop life saving in Gaza."

But Mr Badra said it's important that Gazans can access the beach safely, because it's one of the very few forms of entertainment there.

Mohammed Saleh, Shamikh Badra and Hasan Alhabil.
Mohammed Saleh, Shamikh Badra and Hasan Alhabil.
SBS News

"There is no sporting facilities, no theatre, no cinema in Gaza," he said.

"We want to give people the opportunity to swim in the beach with fun and be safe."

Brian Marriotti runs Nippers at North Steyne Surf Life Saving Club and he said he's happy that the program has inspired others.

He said he's glad Mr Saleh and Mr Alhabil will be able to take some new knowledge back to Gaza with them and hopefully save more lives.

"What we take for granted that every child learns to swim is not a reality there," he said.

"They're starting at a much lower level of skill. It's going to be a different program but I think they'll make it up as they go, using what they've learned here.

"This is a fantastic opportunity to share the privileges we have in Australia with other people around the world who aren't as privileged."

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