Tsunami survivor living in Hemel Hempstead to teach orphans how to swim
A woman will head back to the scene where she survived a deadly tsunami in the hope of saving the lives of children.
Leila Wilks, 54, moved to Hemel Hempstead shortly after she lost everything when waves ripped through her town in the Cagayan province of the Philippines in December 2011.
She survived the horrifying waves after climbing onto the roof of her home – where she stayed overnight with family.
She said: “We cried and prayed on that roof. We thought we were going to die.”
But now Leila has faced her fear of water after taking swimming lessons at Sportspace in Hemel, and will fly back to pass on her knowledge to orphans – in the hope that it may one day save their life.
Speaking about the tsunami, Leila said: “You really have to experience something like it to believe it.
“There was more than 20 of us on the roof and the water was nearly as high. The area was devastated.”
Leila, husband Bemroy and son Jacky Jean, 21, came to a friend’s home in Essex in New Year 2012, but sadly her husband Bemroy died aged 56 shortly after arriving.
Leila admitted she was ‘too afraid’ to swim, but found the courage to take lessons at Sportspace in Hemel in April last year. Alongside Jacky Jean, she was taught a number of strokes under the watchful eye of swimming teacher Ruth Spooner.
Ruth said: “She’s amazing. It has been such a privilege to be able to assist her on her journey to help others.”
Leila was named ‘Everyday Champion’ for Sportspace in January, and is hoping to write a book about her experience, before heading back out to the Philippines in June.
She added: “So many children died and it broke my heart. It’s my heart’s desire to help as many of them as I can.”