UN World Food Programme

Brit Swims English Channel To Raise Funds for WFP

Vicky Miller (in blue) and three of her friends take a breather after swimming a relay across the English Channel this summer to raise awareness and funds for the fight against hunger. Photo courtesy of Vicky Miller.

Vicky Miller took on the challenge of swimming in a relay across the 21-mile English Channel to raise awareness about hunger and funds for WFP. Through sponsorship from family, friends and colleagues, Vicky has raised nearly £3,000.

What made you decide to swim the English Channel?
I have been swimming since I was young and feel really comfortable in the water. I always thought taking on a challenge like swimming the English Channel would be something I would want to do some day. I hadn’t looked into swimming the Channel but a friend approached me about swimming in her relay team so I jumped at the chance.

How did you train for the challenge?
Lots of swimming! The hardest thing to get used to is the currents and cold water, as you’re not allowed to wear a wetsuit. There is a Channel swimmers training group on the coast in Dover and I live in London so I went to swim in the sea almost every weekend from May. My first swim training in the Channel was absolutely freezing. One of my teammates and I swam just 15 minutes in the 8 degree water at the time. It took us much longer than that to warm up. We sat on the beach wearing layers of clothing, hats, scarves and gloves and drank hot chocolate. Funnily enough, there was a much braver man right next to us in his swimwear eating an ice cream.

What inspired you to raise funds for WFP?
I looked into a lot of charities. There is traditionally a huge amount of support for people to support health charities with their challenge events but I wanted to support an organisation that is not as mainstream and that works in developing countries. I really admired the work WFP does working in so many different countries and supporting so many crisis situations around the world. I also admire that WFP addresses the critical challenge of solving hunger no matter what the cause, whether it is drought, conflict or so on.

Once I decided to support WFP, I was especially appreciative to learn statistics about how many people in the world are hungry and the huge number of countries WFP operates in.

What happened on the day of your swim?
Our team of 4 swimmers, which included my friends Lauren, Jen and Emily, left London around midnight. We met the pilot of our boat at 2am and loaded our gear, food and refreshments. Our goal was to each swim and be in the water for one hour and on the boat for three hours, and rotate around. I swam the first leg and set off at 3:10am. The whole first hour it remained very dark but by the second hour the sun started to rise. We were very lucky with the conditions because the water was calm and there was no wind.

Support Vicky’s Campaign!

There are lots of ways you can get involved with WFP in the UK! Our life-saving work is only possible because of supporters like you. From running 10ks to marathons, cycling or swimming, like Vicky, the possibilities are endless. And if this all sounds a bit too active, then how about organising a car boot or cake sale? Or perhaps you've got your own fundraising idea! Get started and create your own campaign today at: http://www.justgiving.com/wfp.

•    Follow WFP UK on Twitter @WFP_UK.

What challenges did you face during your swim?
We knew we would likely come across jellyfish and seaweed since they have been reported very prominent in the Channel this year. My second hour in the water I felt like I was swimming in an aquarium of jellyfish but I miraculously didn’t get stung. As luck would have it I also swam through a lot of seaweed.

Another very unusual experience was swimming through the Channel’s shipping lanes with many tankers and ferries. The largest we saw, a 350-metre long container ship.

When did you arrive in France?
We could make out France as a mark on the horizon soon after we started but it was amazing seeing the coastline take shape and soon after, houses and beaches. On the boat we looked at the map a lot and kept close track of the distance we needed to cover. We realized our team was going faster than expected which made us want to push ourselves even more. At 13:50pm we finally arrived in France. It was such a surreal experience swimming up to the beach where many French tourists and sunbathers were enjoying a day in the sunshine. Many of them came over, asked us questions and even wanted to take pictures with us.

How did you feel once you had arrived in France?
Once we had arrived, it all took a bit of time to sink in but we all felt great. We all loved every single minute of the experience and were all so supportive of each other. It was, without a doubt, one of the best days of my life so far.

What’s next for you? Have you got the Channel swimming bug?
Absolutely! The conditions for our Channel swim in July were near perfect so to get more experience with different conditions, I am looking to do another relay swim in August. Then, I am looking to do my first solo Channel swim in July next year.

What advice can you give people?
So many people have come up to me and said that they don’t think they could ever do what I did. But I genuinely believe that a lot more people could do it than realize it. It’s really all about the training and for the Channel swim definitely about adopting to the cold water. For months we took cold showers and didn’t crank up the heating as much Challenge events are really all worth it and I’d definitely encourage anyone to give open water swimming a go!