In communities across Bangladesh, flooding has had grave consequences: many young children have drowned because they have been unable to swim.
In 2007, UNICEF teamed up with the Bangladesh Swimming Foundation and the Centre of Injury Prevention and Research, Bangladesh to run the SwimSafe initiative under International Inspiration, the legacy programme of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
SwimSafe teaches children and young people survival swimming skills. More than 80,000 children and young people have now been taught how to swim, dramatically reducing drowning-related deaths.
Bangladesh SwimSafe project © UNICEF Bangladesh
While the programme’s main aim is to reduce the numbers of deaths by drowning, SwimSafe has also enabled new swimming talent to be discovered and fostered.
Ten-year-old Parvez showed natural aptitude for the sport, and is now one of 15 young swimmers on the Bangladesh Swimming Federation’s talent development pathway.
"Before I started the swimming lessons, I was a bit scared of the water", says Parvez. "I wanted to play with my friends so I would still go, but I'd stay in the shallow parts. Now I swim anywhere."
Before his involvement in SwimSafe, Parvez’s academic performance was low and he was destined to become a rickshaw driver. Now, coaches regard him as a future national butterfly champion and possibly even an international competitor.
Parvez is now on the Bangladesh Swimming Federation’s talent development pathway © UNICEF/Valerio Iovine
“We recognised the potential in Parvez immediately", says Md. Golam Mostafa of the Bangladesh Swimming Federation. "He had a relaxed, easy manner as he moved through the water and he was fast. We were really surprised to find such talent.”
The International Inspiration programme, delivered by UNICEF, British Council and UK Sport, aims to improve the lives of children around the world by connecting them to the inspirational power of sport. Working with policy makers, teachers and coaches and young people, International Inspiration is transforming the way sport is used in schools and local communities.