By Dan Phutthakhun Prungkananon SDI/TDI Instructor Trainer
If any of you have ever seen the movie “Avatar”, you have noticed that the hero on the wheelchair couldn’t walk. But during his sleep, he would dream that he could recover his ability to move freely. He was able to walk through a world full of color and life as we have in our seas. As a diving instructor, it came to me the idea that in the water, disabled and incapacitated people would be able to recover a part of their freedom too.
Since 2014 a friend of mine had dedicated himself to help handicapped people by giving them an access to physical activities. Knowing that I am a scuba diving instructor, he called me to help teach the disabled learn how to scuba dive. Inspired by this idea, I decided to get certified as a Scubility Diving instructor. I wanted to help people feel and gain a sense of freedom in the water.
If you know someone who has either had an accident that has led them to be disabled or being born with such conditions. Then you would know how hard it is to feel accepted in this world. Loss of faith, discouragement, pain, and sadness often become their reality. They no longer feel like a part of this society, but the ocean has the gift to make us all feel equal and give us the opportunity to rebuild our confidence.
Within 4 years and 4 events, we created many solutions for handicap students. We had also trained many divers to be dive buddies with them. All the Scubility participants must undergo a medical check at the Marine hospital (blood, X-ray, lung) by doctors working with Atmosphere Under Pressure department. In 2017, we had a total of 6 Scubility participants and most of them are wheelchair bound. We also taught 14 Scubility dive buddies to partner up and assist the participants. It was an awesome experience filled with smiles, tears of happiness in spite of the problems and obstacle along the way. We are proud to raise someone up from their chair or their bed to enjoy this new challenge. This year we have a new challenge with a blind Scubility student. I have designed touch signal language for safety and all communication required underwater. We call it “see by heart”.
This year 2018, the program “Scuba Diving for All” will happen between 30 October – 5 November in Khao Lak, Phan-Nga province, south of Thailand. We have a good team who will be helping organize this program. We will also be training Scubility Instructors, dive buddies to better take care of the participants. One important thing to remember during the course is that we will only provide the necessary help required, and afterward the divers may be as independent as they can. All the facilities are ready. The hotel and resort is handicap friendly, proper dive sites have been chosen and the nice people in our land of smiles are ready to help.
As this is a charity project, all the participants are not required to pay any amount for the course. We could not thank our instructors and dive buddies enough for volunteering their time. Also, a special thank you to Baan Khao Lak Resort who will be providing all the rooms and facilities required for the course, such as pool and access to the beach (Baan Khaolak Beach Resort is one of the few wheelchair-friendly resorts in Thailand).
I hope this is a good introduction to the Thailand Scubility project internationally. Let’s try to make this project a success and make it an inspiration for everyone to overcome their odds and help each other. There are also plans to make this an international event in the future. Hope to see you soon in our happy underwater world.