Vietnam Adventure 4: A Global Epidemic

Each year drowning claims the lives of over 372,000 people around the globe. Although these death rates are two-thirds that of malnutrition and over half that of malaria, there is little being done to address this preventable epidemic. This gap creates an urgent need to address drowning as a public health issue through preventative measures.

In Vietnam, there are an estimated 35 deaths per day from drowning, making it one of the world’s top 3 countries when it comes to the burden of drowning. This is near the numbers of traffic accidents per day here. I talk about relearning how to cross the street in my earlier blog Vietnam Adventure 1: Head First.

It is absolutely heart breaking to see the news reports on drowning, usually children swimming unsupervised. the reports often share the deaths of multiple children, where they are trying to save one another and both drown. There have been three news reports in the past two weeks where a total of 14 children have lost their lives.  see below for an article and YouTube news clip.

9 Middle school students Drown in central Vietnam

YouTube News clip

Although drowning prevention is still a concern in developed countries, they have had the benefit of generations of building infrastructure and community awareness.  In the US for example, in 1914 a man named Longfellow made it his life’s work to reduce the number of drownings in the US. He worked with the Red Cross to train Water Safety Instructors, build pools and raise the level of community awareness on the dangers of drowning and preventative measures.  In his lifetime, drowning rates were cut in half.


Although there has been work started in Vietnam by various organizations, the work is local and usually seemingly unconnected to a national movement or plan. The best example we have seen in drowning prevention here is Swim Vietnam.  They have been a great partner of ours in helping us with a common curriculum, instructor training and sharing pitfalls they have experienced since starting in the resort pools of Hoi An.

The good news is that there are other organizations with similar goals and government support and assistance.  The international NGO’s in drowning prevention are starting to partner to ensure we have a common voice and can share our experience on what is working with decision makers at the national level. The Vietnam government has just announced a plan to put $30m+ into drowning and traffic accident prevention and this is a good start.  I am confident the numbers will decrease with the help of our program, our partner programs and the interventions the government is prepared to implement.

Our Work:

My wife Beth Kreitl and I decided to resign from our jobs in Corporate and Higher Ed to experience our first year of marriage together volunteering in Vietnam – The Vietnam Adventure.  We are working with the Golden West Humanitarian Foundation to create and lead a drowning prevention program in Central Vietnam.  In Vietnam, on average, there are 35 deaths per day from preventable drowning.  We hope that providing interventions in Community Awareness, Water Safety Education and Learn to Swim infrastructure, teacher and student training, we can reduce this unacceptable number.  You can find more info here or see a video produced by the Microsoft Alumni Network of our move here.

Appreciation for helping hands:

Thank you to Allison Morton from Allison Doane Design for helping to design and finalize the soon to be live Swim for Life website (

Thank you Lea Gallanter from Gallant Editorial services for editorial work to our new site.

Thank you to Suphatra Paravichai and Aditya Bijaj for website review and SEO guidance. Every hour volunteering matched by Microsoft’s volunteer match program, sends 1 child through our 18 class survival swimming curriculum. Wooohooo!

Always a need for additional help:

If you want to get involved in any way; fundraising, friend-raising or volunteering your skills, let me know as we can always use extra hands – employer volunteer matching benefit is a plus as well!  (old habits of a volunteer program lead die hard!)  Experience in water safety is not needed, just the desire to use your time to help the cause.

If you are interested in visiting Vietnam and seeing our work up close, we’d love to host you.

Please share this blog with your friends and family and anyone that is interested in Vietnam, Water Safety, Education, or would like to help us save lives. 🙂  Thank you in advance for checking out, ‘liking’, and sharing our facebook page!!!


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