The Dolphin Project - Since 1963, the largest drowning prevention Program in Brazil - 150,000 children trained

TitleThe Dolphin Project - Since 1963, the largest drowning prevention Program in Brazil - 150,000 children trained
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2007
Authorsdos Nunes, RS
Conference NameWorld Conference on Drowning Prevention
Date Published09/2007
PublisherInternational Life Saving Federation
Conference LocationPorto, Portugal
Other Numbers02-54
KeywordsBrazil, children, education

­The Brazilian professional lifeguard service started in Rio de Janeiro City in 1918. Until the early 1960´s there were no drowning prevention programs for children education. In 1963 the first program called 'DOLPHIN PROJECT' commenced. This project started on Copacabana Beach, with 100 children with the objective to entertain and educate them on 'beach safety'. Since then the Dolphin Project is conducted every year with an increasing number of children by the Maritime Groupment - Fire Department of Rio de Janeiro and sponsored by Petrobrás.

Project: The project is 20 days long on January (summer), from 8 to 11:00AM with a snack break at 9:45h, Monday to Friday. It encompasses children from 7 to 17 years old in 3 different categories: Dolphin 7 to 10; Moby Dick 11 to 14; and Shark 15 to 17 years old. This project is conducted at 35 different beaches each one has their own local coordinator and instructors. Each age category is subdivided in males and females allowing the project to have at general 6 different groups of 60 children, for each beach. The activities and information are adapted for these 3 different levels and include: beach general activities, beach knowledge, wave and winds formation, drowning prevention actions on the beach and pool, how to stay away from drowning, how to help someone on danger without being the victim, how to rescue, first aid, preservation of environment, lifesaving sports, and general recreation. Parents have their own activity based on education on drowning prevention called Mermaids and Turtles. The project has no charge to participants and has been sponsored by a big petroleum company for the past 5 years.

Results: Since 1964, more than 150,000 children have joined the Dolphin Project. Since 2001, with the sponsor interest of Petrobrás, a big petroleum company, the number of children enrolled has increase each year. In 2006, number of participants is showed on table 1.

Table 1 - Dolphin Project Participants and number in 35 different beaches - 2006.

Participants Number
Children 13,487
Mothers 3,512
Fathers 286
Organizers 12
Coordinators 35
Instructors 940
Collaborators 354
Total of participants


Discussion: The project involves many different important aspects. The first and more important one is the ability to spread the general information on prevention on drowning. This raises the possibility to reduce the number of water accidents in Rio de Janeiro State and not just along the beach but also away from the shore, including pools, lakes and ponds. This has been a tremendous impact if we consider the number of children enrolled each year since 1963.

The potential is immense as we can find in every place around the State someone who himself or herself was enrolled on this project some day in their life. Their knowledge is beyond the prevention of drowning and includes the ability to help the lifesaving service in many different aspects using nowadays their professional skills (teachers, layers, physician, governator, mayor and so on…).

Other benefits from this project include the social aspect, as it’s free of charge and any interested person along the State coast, and not only in Rio de Janeiro City can enroll, making from this project a large interchange of knowledge. Learning first aid allows them to help anyone out side the water scenario and sports education can point their ability to water sports. The way the project is divided by age class, enables the younger children to look and admire the older ones with respect and pride allowing a continuation of education.

The possibility of TV, Radio and newspaper publicity is huge and increases year by year leading to two interesting facts: the 13,000 vacancies for the program finish before 12:00AM on the first day and sponsors are competing for an opportunity to give their support.

Rio de Janeiro City has shown to have the best improvement in the reduction of drowning from 1995 to 2003 against the other States of the Brazilian Federation, demonstrating that this would be one prevention program that makes the difference along with others actions. The next action recommended would be to extend the project along every place in Rio de Janeiro State, and not just on the coast.

Learning Outcomes
  1. How to encourage the participation of young people in water safety and lifesaving?
  2. How to manage 13,487 children in a 20 days lifesaving program?
  3. How they can contribute to reduce drowning?