Worth school students set off on channel swim

Worth School students Harriet Brown, Ben Blades, Will Field, Ben Wishart, Anna Stordy, Joey Mercieca, Raph Gueissmann and James Griffiths who are swimming across the English Channel for 1Voice - picture submitted
Worth School students Harriet Brown, Ben Blades, Will Field, Ben Wishart, Anna Stordy, Joey Mercieca, Raph Gueissmann and James Griffiths who are swimming across the English Channel for 1Voice - picture submitted

A team of eight teenagers are swimming the English Channel in aid of a charity which supports families with children with severe communication difficulties.

Worth School pupils Harriet Brown, Ben Blades, Will Field, Ben Wishart, Anna Stordy, Joey Mercieca, Raph Gueissmann and James Griffiths hope to set off tomorrow (July 2) weather permitting.

Calling themselves ‘Free Willies’, they hope to complete the swim in around 15 hours.

Harriet said: “We’ve done five training sessions down at Dover recently and each time we’ve had to stay in the water for longer - up to an hour if we can. It’s been very cold, under 10 degrees, and it takes a lot of mental strength to carry on in those conditions.”

The 17-year-olds have chosen to raise funds for 1Voice – Communicating Together, a small charity which help disabled children who need to use aids such as pictures, written words and technology to communicate.

Team member Anna said: “We all genuinely wanted to make a difference and that’s what 1Voice does. Although it may seem glamorous to be part of a team swimming the English Channel, it’s already been harder than I ever imagined. But we know the people we are helping would give anything to be able to swim and move as freely as we can.

“The team has chosen the name ‘Free Willies’ for the challenge, taken from the movie about a captive killer whale that swims to freedom.

“We hope it encapsulates, in a roundabout way, the freedom non-verbal people achieve when they have an alternative way of communicating and an opportunity to make their voice heard.”

But all the hard work will be a waste for two of the swimmers. Although there are eight members of the team, on the day there will only be room in the boat for six. Each member must complete a two-hour qualifying swim and the two with the slowest times will not take part.

Anna added: “Some days it was only the support of my teammates that made me get in the water. We have become extremely close and we understand why it has to be done this way. However, I intend to do everything I can to ensure I am one of the people in that boat on the day.”

1Voice trustee Angie McCormack said: “We totally rely on fundraising to continue the work we do for these children and families across the country, but we are completely overwhelmed by the courage and determination shown by this group of young swimmers; we have every confidence they will complete the swim.”

People wishing sponsor the Free Willies swim challenge can go to virginmoneygiving.com/freewillys

For information about 1Voice go to www.1voice.info