By Casey Neill
From almost drowning in a pool a year ago to state competition…
Morteza Sami had never even seen a swimming pool when he arrived in Australia 12 months ago.
Today the Afghan-born 13-year-old is swimming at state level on the Dandenong Oasis Otters squad.
“I couldn’t swim at all. I’d never seen a pool in my life,” he told the Journal.
“I didn’t think I’d be able to swim.”
His brother Latif, 23, arrived in Australia in 2009 and worked for seven years to sponsor his family’s migration to join him.
Latif started lifeguarding at Oasis in about 2011.
“I’d seen a pool and a beach,” he said about his arrival in Australia.
“I didn’t know how to swim, but I knew how to do the doggy paddle a little.
“I did lessons here in 2009. That was through YMCA.”
He introduced his siblings to his workplace soon after their arrival.
Morteza jumped in the deep end – literally.
“He went straight down,” Latif said.
“I jumped in, I had to save him.
“After that they were scared of the water, they didn’t want to go in the water.
“Then they started doing lessons after a month.”
The lessons were through the Open Doors program, a partnership between YMCA and Lifesaving Victoria.
Morteza thrived and has been with the Otters for the past six months.
The Dandenong High School student swims for two hours a day, every day.
“I do all the strokes. Butterfly is my specialty,” he said.
“I love competing and finishing.
“It’s a good sport, a healthy sport.
“I want to work hard to be a legend.”
Latif is proud of his brother’s progress.
“It’s something special,” he said.
“I didn’t expect that.
“I always encourage him to keep it up, and do his school work.”
The Open Doors aims to deliver 10 free swimming lessons to 120 people at Dandenong Oasis each year.
“We know how integral and how important it is for every child to learn how to swim,” centre manager Trudy Micallef said.
“In this area it’s identified that we really need to be doing more for those newly-arrived people.”