|It’s a rare and special young person who packs up an inner-city Melbourne life, plants themselves in a remote Indigenous community in the Northern Territory – to run a program based around the community pool.
We’re celebrating Sarah Rendina, 23 – who is the young person who did just that!
Sarah photographed on right (middle) with local lifeguards Ephraim and Belinda.
Sarah was willing to live 50kms from the nearest supermarket, where English is a second language and there’s limited internet, no phone coverage, temperatures regularly hit 40 degrees celsius, and home is a modestly converted one room shipping container. And all this with a smile on her face!
She is the Pool Coordinator for the Y’s Remote Pools Project in Utju (Areyonga) on Pitjantjatjara Lands, 250kms Sth West of Alice Springs, and we celebrate her innovative and important community work this International Women’s Day.
Since her arrival in Utju six months ago – after four years with the Y as a swim teacher in Carlton and Brunswick – she’s worked alongside local people in Utju to ensure the local pool has become a vibrant and welcoming hub for the whole community, that delivers everything from water safety programs and youth-led programs including Kunga nights, pool discos and fellas’ nights, to “kapi-bubs” a water play program for babies and their mums – all in a culturally safe and relevant way. (*kapi is Pitjantjatjara word meaning water)
In the process, Sarah has built trust and relationships with the local community – including the community dogs! Sarah has led and supported a small Y team at the pool comprising of local people and volunteers from Victoria who have worked together to keep the pool open for children and families over the hot summer, providing important health benefits for community.
Teaching children how to be aware of their safety was cleverly taught through an art program she initiated, that saw kids painting old kickboards with their own symbols to re-enforce healthy and safe behaviours at the pool. She was congratulated by the Australian Childhood Foundation for her inspired work.
“My main purpose here in community is to empower the kids and the community and respond to the community’s needs, providing opportunities at the pool for local employment, swimming and water safety lessons, programs for young people, mothers & babies and the women,” says Sarah.
“The community have so much pride in their pool. The pool feels like the centre of community, the heart of community, its buzzing on weekends and after school with kids and families.”
“She’s absolutely embraced the adventure, been very adaptable, is a great listener, and has worked hard to make sure the community has access to a safe place to swim, which is vital in remote desert communities,” says her manager Maree Feutrill, Manager of the Remote Pools Project for the Y in the Northern Territory.
“The pool has a very positive impact on the community in so many ways,” says Sarah. For example, the nurses have told me that during the pool operating season, the clinic sees less children presenting with skin sores.
I love living out here and learning some Pitjantjatjara language, and feel so fortunate that the local women have been very embracing and share their culture with me. I feel very looked after and valued here by the community.”