Following a highly-successful campaign in 2019, with record numbers, the fifth annual Welcome to the Beach program is set to make another splash in the Hunter this year.
CatholicCare’s Refugee group coordinated the initiative in partnership with the Cooks Hill Surf Life Saving Club 12 months ago.
On that occasion, more than 100 migrants and international students headed to Bar Beach to learn about safety in the waves.
Now, the two organisations will team up again on three consecutive Saturdays – November 28, December 5 and 12.
But, CatholicCare project liaison officer John Sandy is envisaging the situation to be a little different this time around.
“Yes, it was a massive turnout [in 2019],” he admitted. “However, I’m not expecting that again, mainly due to the coronavirus.
“Thanks to the current COVID-19 protocols, we’ll be targeting up to 20 young people; and individuals instead of families.”
Mr Sandy proudly admitted the response to Welcome to the Beach previously was “overwhelming”.
“We’ve had citizens here from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Africa and many more places in the past,” he said.
“And, they’ve all loved it [the program]. The surf can be very scary for them at first.
“I know when I arrived as a refugee (from Sierra Leone), I felt frightened, especially with the strength of the waves. But, it’s an exciting experience at the end of the day.
“Plus, spending time at the beach is a big part of Australian culture. That’s why we invite new arrivals to the country to participate in the program.
“They’ll have the opportunity to learn how to swim in a safe environment, meet volunteer lifeguards and, best of all, form friendships in a fun setting.
“It really is a terrific way to interact with each other while building someone’s confidence.
“On top of that, Newcastle is home to the most beautiful beaches in Australia.
“What’s not to love?”
The Welcome to the Beach program is open to participants at no cost.
To attend, participants must register first by contacting Mr Sandy on 0428 822 526 or [email protected]