Pete Peterson: The ex-POW teaching Vietnam to swim


Truly awesome story here on the BBC

More than 30 years after being stripped, bound and paraded through countless Vietnamese villages, Pete Peterson returned to the country as America’s ambassador. While there, he shook the hands of his captors – and began a mission to save the lives of young swimmers.

“We started to look at drowning prevention specifically, because drowning in our statistics was the biggest killer of children in the countries where we had conducted surveys – it was the biggest killer by far,” he says.

Tasc estimates one child drowns every hour in Vietnam. In Bangladesh it’s one every 25 minutes. Across Asia, the group estimates the death toll to be between 200,000 and 280,000 children per year – around the same as the total number of deaths from the Asian Tsunami in 2004. Nearly half of these victims are toddlers.

Large parts of south-east Asia are covered in rivers and lakes – around 16% of Vietnam, for example – and although children and their parents bathe at dawn and dusk across the region, relatively few people can swim.

“There is a fear of water,” says Peterson. “It is not normal for a family to teach the children to swim, because the parents can’t swim, because they are absolutely petrified of water.”

About Author

Production engineer and certified swim coach. Full-time IT consultant, spare-time swimming aficionado. 2 sons, 2 daughters and a wife. President of the Faroe Islands Swimming Association. Likes to run :-)

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