Swimming for Hope

A project by: Zeina Alsharkas


WE RAISED £5,116

from 130 donors

This project received donations on Wed 13 Feb 2019
Help me bring a wave of peace!

A short summary of my project

Have you ever thought of how it would feel to be separated from your family, your friends, or your homeland without knowing whether you will see them again? This is what happened to many of my compatriots escaping from the war in Syria, or those who were already abroad without the possibility to come back home.

Today, I have a dream that I want to share with you. I am dreaming of peace in Syria. I am dreaming that people will not need to risk their lives anymore to be safe; that I will be able to talk to my mum not only on the phone; that all Syrians can not only live in present, but also plan their future.

I am eternally grateful for all the and opportunities that I have received here in the UK but having had this unique chance I can no longer stand idle while those compatriots less lucky than me risk their lives everyday crossing the sea seeking refuge in Europe

I cannot stop the war, but I can swim. I can share the perils that my people pass through by swimming the English Channel and through it share my dreams, voice, and hopes. I have proudly represented my country in international swimming competitions and, today, I want to commit to you to swim across the Channel in August 2019. As symbol of reunification between those Syrian families that have been separated by the war; I will swim in the opposite direction from which refugees come to the UK to show the incoherence of war and to send a message of peace.

Who AM I?

I am a lecturer at the University of Essex in the Department of Economics, where I have completed my MSc and Ph.D. Before moving to England, I was a member of the Syrian National Team for years. My previous swimming experience includes mainly short-distance indoor swimming. I won many medals in national and international swimming competitions. For instance, I was a national champion in 50m and 100m butterfly.  

Swimming has always been my passion. Even during cold mornings in winter when I was 9 years old, I have never missed a session. Nobody knew how happy the morning breezes made me feel, or the sensation of the water carrying me up while all my troubles seemed to sink down, the awareness filling my body when moving in the water, the vibes rushing in me when breaking my own record. I have always felt as safe in water as at home. Unfortunately, with my Ph.D. workload and a recurrent knee injury, I could not fit swimming into my life for 5 years.

After completing my Ph.D., I felt a big void in my heart and the need to reconnect with my passion for swimming. Maybe, I was unconsciously looking for a safe place while knowing that home was not safe anymore. In the end, at home I was always swimming and swimming in England is still a rare part of home I can carry with me.

At the beginning, I thought that I would never be able to swim at a level close to what I was before starting my postgraduate degrees. Slowly, however, with commitment and determination, my level has begun to improve, and I am now developing my long-distance and open water swimming. This challenge I am taking upon myself is to dive in the ocean and swim for approximately 15 hours is also to prove to myself and to everyone that I can swim, I love swimming and I will always swim.

Why am i doing this? 

Swimming across the channel is highly symbolic to me for many reasons and a metaphor of what many of us have gone through in the past few years.

First, I will swim in the opposite direction of the flows of refugees that came to the UK to show the incoherence of the War and send a message of peace. Taking this direction is optional for me and, by doing so, I want to bring hope to all refugees that they will have the option one day of choosing the direction they want to take, both while travelling but also in life.

Although I did not have to go through this dangerous journey, I still suffer from the separation from my beloved ones. I live the UK and I was separated from my sister for 4 years until she moved to France one year ago. I still have not seen my mum and my dad. Swimming to meet my sister in France will represent the efforts and the struggle that all refugees go through to reach their beloved ones.

Waves can go up to two meters and crossing them will represent the emotions I went through all these years while facing uncertainty regarding the safety of my relatives. While swimming, I will be deported by the current and I will have to accept events and put efforts to overcome them. This will represent the resilience of many refugees in the face of adversity.

To accomplish this mission, I will also need to take risks. It is easy for people to imagine how demanding it is to swim for 32 kilometres in difficult conditions. However, it is much harder to understand what refugees in TV news or in statistics are going through. Through my project, I want to raise awareness on real life heroes and bring a message of peace.


     I will swim the English Channel, starting at Shakespeare’s Cliff or Samphire Hoe (between Folkestone and Dover) and I aim to finish at or near Cap Gris Nez (between Boulogne and Calais). The distance that I am going to cover is approximately 21 miles (32 kilometres). Yes, that is true! I will be swimming 21 miles at least. However, it is not only about distance. There are other variable conditions that would affect swimming across the Channel, such as wind forces, waves and water temperature. I hope that I don’t meet any jellyfish or seaweed!

    Where will the money go?

    Ideally, I need £4,490 to bring this project to reality. The most urgent costs include £1000 deposit to secure my escort pilot and £300 deposit for swim and training management costs.  

    Below is a detailed breakdown of the costs: 

    • Escort pilot costs £3,200 (£1000 deposit)
    • Channel Crossing Association One-Way Solo Swim registration fees £390 
    • Swim and Training Management costs £900 (£300 deposit).

    Costs could be verified via the website of the Channel Swimming Association (under “What will it all cost?”): https://www.channelswimmingassociation.com/faq 

    *Note that the costs are subject to updates in 2019. 

    Any additional money raised would go toward supporting kids education in refugees camps. In particular, I want to support kids education. 

    Help Me succeed!

    Although I will be alone over there while swimming, in heart and spirit, I want many others to be a part of it! 

    You can help me to bring light in my project in many ways, which include:

    • Encourage me with nice words and positive attitudes :)
    • Any donations, small or large, would help me to get closer to make my dream come true.
    • Share my project on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, by email, telephone, in a chat over the fence or on your blog.


    I am happy to reply to questions about my project via email: zalsha@essex.ac.uk