International Inspiration has saved lives in Bangladesh

18-year-old Noor Begum at the opening of the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London © Unicef UK/Hannah Ewing18-year-old Noor Begum at the opening of the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London © Unicef UK/Hannah Ewing

My name is Noor Begum, I am 18 and from Bangladesh. I’d like to tell you about my involvement with International Inspiration.

I heard about SwimSafe, one of the International Inspiration programmes, in 2009. Every 30 minutes, two children drown in Bangladesh. The project has been teaching children to swim safely, which should reduce the death rate. This plan touched my heart.

Before teaching survival swimming I was just an ordinary girl, but this programme has given me a great deal of confidence. Now I am sharing my knowledge with my neighbours and other young people in my area. I trained as a community swimming instructor, and started to train children to swim safely. The children call me Noor-apa, because -apa is a suffix meaning ‘teacher’. In the last two years I have taught 105 children to swim safely.

Video: Swimming lessons save lives in Bangladesh

I think I have a greater position in my community due to being a swimming teacher, and am in involved in various kinds of social change related to swimming. Just two months ago I saved a child’s life by using the techniques of breathing that I learnt in my training.

My father is a rickshaw puller, and the only earning member of my family. Consequently we are facing difficulties in enrolling and remaining in education. I have received a small amount of remuneration for working as a swimming instructor. This money helps me to cover some of my educational expenses, proving that a girl can be an active member of her family. These activities help me to develop my leadership skills, which helps me to speak up for other girls in my village to make sure their voices are heard.

18-year-old Noor Begum at the opening of the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London © Unicef UK/Hannah Ewing18-year-old Noor Begum at the opening of the Olympic Aquatics Centre in London © Unicef UK/Hannah Ewing

Being part of International Inspiration has made a huge difference to my life, and it’s great that children and young people around the world are getting access to sport and play opportunities, and are being inspired to choose sport.

I believe that in the near future, we will be able to reduce drowning-related deaths in Bangladesh.

I hope that my students will be able to participate in the Olympic Games in the near future, and I aim to give them the spirit to do it.

I would like to thank Unicef UK, Unicef Bangladesh, the British Council, and CMES with International Inspiration for the opportunities I have been given.

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