Last fall, UBC Sauder School of Business student Amin Jivraj and his girlfriend, were in South Surrey on their way to have dinner at an Afghani restaurant they’d heard good things about. They were almost there when they heard a shrill scream. Both of them jumped into action.
The cry came from a woman who witnessed a man get hit by a car. Amin and his girlfriend, a certified lifeguard and trained first aider, worked together to rescue the victim and pass him off to Emergency Medical Services.
It was just one of many instances where even out of the water, Amin’s lifeguard training has saved lives. Amin, a National Lifeguard award holder for over a decade, started swimming at a young age, following in the footsteps of his older brothers. At his first chance to volunteer in the community, he picked the local pool. The volunteer coordinator at the pool noticed Amin’s keen enthusiasm and strong swimming skills and told him he was taking his National Lifeguard course. The rest is history.
At UBC, Amin has been teaching Advanced Leadership Courses at UBC Aquatic Centre since 2014, “training and mentoring people, young and old, to become aquatic professionals,” he says. The courses teach students to handle emergencies and advanced First Aid in an aquatic environment, which is useful not only for UBC Aquatic Centre staff, but also UBC staff members who work at UBC Robson Square, the UBC Boathouse in Richmond, and the numerous athletic and recreation facilities across campus.
Students come to the courses for various reasons: some are university staff coming in for certifications, others want to be professional lifeguards, and there are members of general public who want to learn about First Aid to be able to help their family and friends in times of need. The Advanced Courses cover a range of topics from pool chemistry to team-building skills, to rescue drills and treatments. In the end, it boils down to being able to assist others: “that ability to help out my fellow human being. That is, hands down, the best perk of this job,” Amin notes.
Advanced courses at UBC Aquatic Centre equip students with life skills: “Being a lifeguard doesn’t mean that you’re just rescuing people, you’re building solid, strong community relationships with your patrons,” Amin notes. “Being a lifeguard is also about reaching your personal best. We always challenge our students to push their personal limits, to push their personal boundaries.”
Not all his students arrive as strong swimmers, but advanced aquatic training courses at UBC allow “enough opportunities, space, and time for us to work with those students to make sure that they can meet and exceed [the required fitness] standards,” such as a 400-metre timed swim in less than 10 minutes.
Getting the certification is a challenge, Amin admits, “but that’s also the reason why Canadian lifeguards are among some of the best lifeguards in the world. “Any student that comes out of a UBC course tends to get hired immediately just because of the training. It tests the grit and the resilience of the students to really excel.”
The new UBC Aquatic Centre is a state-of-the-art facility that will enrich the programming and services, providing many more opportunities for students in Advanced Courses to learn. With three pools and a hot tub, says Amin, “What that does is create a more inclusive environment so we have folks with a range of needs, abilities, and interests to come in and share the space,” he says. “This new facility is going to be an even more real environment because it reflects the future of aquatic centres,” Amin adds. With the classroom right on the deck, the classes will be able to move between theory and practising drills without interruptions.
“My hope with the new facility is to increase the number of courses that we offer to try and attract more and more aspiring lifeguards because I think this will be a world-class facility,” Amin notes. UBC already has some of the best equipment available to practice and a strong commitment to student success and quality of education. “I’m always a thrilled, motivated and happy instructor when I come to UBC.”