The SWISS CHANNEL CHALLENGE
We are a team of 8 girls from International Schools in
Switzerland. We are the first female team based
in Switzerland to have swum across the English
Channel, we have also crossed the Geneva Lake.
In doing so we have raised awareness and money
for Obstetric Fistula
The goals we set ourselves have been reached thanks to your generosity. Yet, we will not stop here.
Obstetric Fistula is a debilitating condition that ostracises the young women living with it.
This must stop. So we will not stop.
To encourage you to keep helping us, after the Channel we swam the length of Lake Geneva.
The eradication of Obstetric Fistula has now also become one of the UN’s goals: United Nations Article
Obstetric Fistula: Modern-Day Lepers: New York Times Article
Huit jeunes nageuses vont traverser la Manche pour une bonne cause: La Côte
8 jeunes romandes traverseront la Manche pour lutter contre la fistule obstétricale: Fémina
The first under 18 Swiss relay team to swimmThe English Channel
My name is Theodosia Catsiapis and I am 16 years old. Last year I read an article about a man named Phillipe Croizon who lost both his arms and his legs and still managed to swim across the English Channel. His inspiring story made me think, well if he can do it, so can I. A Channel relay swim is a challenge that tests endurance, determination and essentially team work. I know that this will probably be the hardest thing I have ever done, but I am motivated and ready to commit especially since I am doing it for a cause that is so close to my heart. I have been strongly engaged in raising money for Obstetric Fistula since April 2015, after having visited Ethiopia. I started a charity "T.E.Y.Y.A - To Empower Youth with Youth Action". When I realised that this challenge could raise money for these poor, suffering girls I looked further into it, gathered a team, started training and now here we are- the first under 18 Swiss Channel relay team in history!
Ludmilla le Marié
My name is Ludmilla le Marié, I was born in France and I am 17 years old. I have been studying in Le Rosey since class 9. I am passionate about Argentinian Tango and I hope to one day become a professional dancer. I also love acting and multiple sports. I first started swimming when I was only just a baby, and I always loved the sea more than I liked pools. Therefore, when my friend Theodosia Catsiapis came to me with the insane idea of crossing the English Channel, I immediately said YES, with no second thought. I don't think that at the time I realised how big of a challenge I was getting myself into, but as the time passes by, I am more and more confident about us crossing it. I believe that we have now found and strong and determined team of girls that will reach France no matter what the circumstances. As for the future, I would like to go to a performing arts university in USA. And then hopefully succeed in the acting industry, dancing and of course continue with sports but taking it to a more extreme level.
My name is Josephine Brenoe. I am from Denmark and The Netherlands however August 2015 marks the beginning of my time living in Europe. Before Geneva, I was living in India for 4 years and earlier in the Philippines. I have always loved to participate in sports and being a member of a team. The sports that I focus on primarily are football and swimming. Since I moved to Switzerland I have taken my sports activity to a whole new level. I have also done this with my poetry. I love to write poetry, I wrote my own book. Poetry is a passion of mine and so is swimming, swimming is a sport that pushes me beyond my abilities both mentally and physically. Therefore, when I was told about this Swiss Channel Challenge I was ready to dig my teeth . There has been no shortage of nervousness, pride, excitement and teamwork during the preparation for this challenge. . I know that I must work my hardest to insure that I succeed. For that, I am 110% ready to dive right in.
My name is Mira. I recently turned 17 years old and I attend the International School of Geneva Campus des Nations. I was born in Canada but moved to Geneva at age 9. I am about to begining my last year of IB and then I will study Biology at university. My hobbies are swimming, football, skiing and biking. However my main sport has always been swimming. I compete regularly at the french national level for my club Pays de Gex Natation. I hope to become a medical doctor, this is why the cause of Obsteric Fistula resonated with me so deeply. I have always had a need to help others from volunteering at a nursing home to volunteering in rural schools in Zambia. When I was contacted about the challenge at first I was worried that I wasn't capable of swimming for that long and in those conditions, but then I realized this that this was my chance to use my years of swimming to help those who are suffering. I'm so proud to be a part of the ChaCha Team and it's fundraising initiative!
If one word could describe me it would be adventurous. Whether it is hiking for 8 days, canoeing down a river, traveling to a foreign country or swimming the channel, I throw myself head and shoulders into every adventure no matter how big or small. For the last few years I have been looking for the ultimate challenge that tested me both mentally and physically whilst at the same time reaching out to the global community. As a dedicated competitive swimmer for the last 8 years, who trains 5-6 times a week, by finding something that uses the skills I have built up, allows me to help other whilst pursuing a passion. When swimming the channel as a relay to raise money of obstetric fistula came up, the seed was planted towards this ultimate challenge. And so the adventure begins...
My name is Margaret Koudriaev and I'm a swimmer. I used to live in London and competed for several years but when I moved to Geneva I wanted to row and run track for my school team rather than compete in swimming. Nevertheless I still loved to swim in my own and missed it for a while. Then one day, my sports science teacher spoke to me after class and informed that there is a group of girls that are going to do something crazy, a great group of swimmers who wanted to cross the channel. I accepted before my teacher managed to finish his sentence! I saw this as an opportunity to do something incredible that not everyone can say they have done and help eradicate something that should no longer exist in today's society.
My name is Lelia Weyrich, I'm 16 years old and I am Australian and German. I have lived in Geneva the majority of my life and its proximity to both a lake and mountains has enabled me to maintain a sporty lifestyle. I thrive on being active so I spend lots of my free time playing sports. I have been swimming since a young age and I love this sport as I feel free in the water. I guess a whole new meaning is brought to the word 'free' when one is swimming across the Channel! My other interests include photographing my holiday destinations and acrobatic rock dancing. I dance twice a week with the Rock Dance Company and I love how intense the trainings are! I can't wait to perform our fabulous routine at the European Championships in Italy in June. When I heard of the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to relay swim the Channel, I was so excited, especially as it meant that our team could potentially be saving lives. I love the idea of being able to provide those in need with decent health care and security ; and I am thrilled to be part of such a determined group of fiery young ladies!
My name is Anouk Emmert and I am 16 years old. I am from Switzerland and have always lived here. I have been a swimmer since I was 8 and it will do 5 years that I do competition and swimming will forever be one of my passions along with listening to music. Doing competitions for so long has taught me to work hard and not to give up because in the end it will always pay back. I will use these lessons taught during this challenge. I am fully conscious that competitions and crossing the Channel are two completely different environments and conditions but that's what makes it such a beautiful challenge to me, because it will make me get out of my comfort zone (which I love) and make me push my limits, but also to raise money for a wonderful cause and to make relatives and close friends aware of Obstetric Fistula. I believe this team is truly capable achieving all our goals. I am 100% motivated for this new challenge and cold water will not change that.
Margarita Latisis Catsiapis
M3 Real Estate SA
The Fondation du Rosey, Sandra Huri and Marie Joe.
Our coaches Kevin Murphy, Kathy Batts, Antoine Laffay and Sophie Pickford.
Our web designers: Luca Ciraolo and Loïc Emmert
Our photographer Raffi Maghdessian -
Arena who offered bathing suits and parkas
SB Sport Service Gland who offered the team sweatshirts and sweatpants.
Sport Club Diffusion, Annemasse who offered our team hoodies and T-shirts.
Our parents: without them, all this would have not been possible...
Our special thanks to:
Michael Conrad Moquette
Emanuel Graf Von Spee
Frick, Tatianai & Marwan Shakarchi
The Tamari Foundation
Efstathia lIiadou/Christos Glavanis
Maurice & Christine Turrettini
Bory & Cie
Peter Lux Janos
Gregoire & Raffaella Notz
Sophie Dorothy Bray
Nunu Luan Anyu
Mariam and Sergei Scherbakov
Concert "Do You Speak Djembé"
Geoff and Jenny Stenson
Tardy André Pierre
Lions Club De La Côte
Latsis Catsiapis Marguerite
M3 Real Estate SA
Parents Year 4A, LGB
Cordoba Foundation of Geneva
Alistair & Fiona Davison
Carlos and Linda Araujo
Ecolint LGB Class of '86
La Tour Reseau De Soins SA
Marbrerie Rossi SA.
Daniel & Lucinda O'Hanlon
Giovanna Kampouri Monnas
Damien, Nunu, Eden & Ruben CHUNG
Linda van de Haar
Mary and Mohamed Bassiouni
Mariel Pontes Oliveira
Angela Spang JUNE MEDICAL
George and Glenda Curry
Mariano A. Frasca
Shu-Ling Lin Mayor
Caroline de Wurstemberger
Sabine Notz Catsiapis
Alexis le Marié
Elisabeth Dercey Warner
Marianne Jahr Olsen
John & Catherine Maud Lucie Wright
Manuela & Marc-Henri Balma
Cofco Resources SA
Natalie Adams Perrin
Joelle Andréoli Dietrich
Gruppo Intesa Sanpaolo
Sophie de Laguiche
Guido et Flaminia Manca
Clarina Hocke Notz
Donate to help us, the ChaCha Team (Channel Challenge
Team), to raise money to help eradicate Obstetric Fistula.
As we are getting closer to our set goals, we are going to set ourselves other challenges and other goals.
Donate via a bank transfer:
If your account is in CHF:
IBAN : CH89 0076 7000 T536 3278 8
If your account is in USD or any other currency:
IBAN : CH37 0076 7000 L538 3031 2
Up to 10% of your donations could be used to sponsor our challenges.
The ChaCha (Channel Challenge) Team is a group of 8 female students, who have swum across the English Channel in two relays of four girls each. On the 9th of August at 2am, the first group commenced their swim from Dover. 12 hours 8 minutes later, fighting rough seas and strong winds of up to 35km/h, they reached the French coast near Calais.
The second group departed 5 days later at 6:45 am. This time conditions were calmer, (maximum wind speed 19km/h), but the jellyfish made their presence known. After 10 hours 16 minutes in the water phase 2 was complete. Success!
The distance that separates Calais from Dover is 33.2 km, but with the currents the girls swam near to 50 km. Our aim is to raise money to cure Obstetric Fistula. The second team to swim, swam the fastest womens relay of 2016.
The Channel Challenge :
Total distance covered by the team while training until now: more than 4'500 km
Total hours swum by the team since December: more than 1,500 hours
Channel Swimming Association Rules
Must swim alternatively for one hour
Must rotate in the same order
Cannot wear a wetsuit
Must pass a 2 hour qualifier in water below 15.5 degrees
Can only spend 10 minutes on French soil upon arrival due to border control regulations
If one swimmer fails, the whole team is disqualified.
The English Channel:
The English Channel is approximately 33.2 km wide
In August the temperature of the water is about 15°C
Certain areas are prone to strong currents
Swimmers often get stung by jellyfish
It is the world’s busiest seaway
More people have climbed Mount Everest than swum the Channel.
Outdoor training in Lake Léman to get used to the cold.
Indoor training, 15km per week in the beggining, but this amount will gradually increase as we get closer to the date of the crossing.
Night swims in the lake but also sea swimms to get used to the currents and jellyfishs.
Our coaches are Kevin Murphy; who has crossed the Channel 34 times, which is more than any other man in history, and Kathy Batts, who has relay swum the Channel 14 times.
Testing sea sickness tablets whilst swiming.
The Channel Challenge Goals:
When Theodosia came up with this crazy idea of crossing the English
Channel, she set herself two goals:
To raise awareness of Obstetric Fistula by informing at least 1000 people of this terrible condition. Through talking to people about our project and thanks to the media we estimate we have informed more than 5000 people to date.
To raise money to cure at least 100 girls. Thanks to your generosity we will be able to cure 166 girls, 100 of them at the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, 33 at the Mercy Women's Hospital in Ghana and 33 at a hospital in Zambia.
Our last challenge was one that is close to home for us. We swam the length of Lake Geneva, which is 69km from end to end taking the shortest route possible. This is double the distance of the Channel. In the end the team will have most likely swim around 75km taking into account the probable route. The average water temperature of the water in September was around 18-19°C. All the training undertaken for their Channel crossing in August, as well as their successful Channel swim itself, has prepared the ChaCha team for this new adventure. Nevertheless, the team has been doing additional training to stay in shape and to remain acclimatised to the cold water. It will take the girls around 24 hours to complete the 75km swim. They started from the iconic Chateau de Chillon at the eastern end of the Lake and finished at the Bains des Paquis in Geneva. This time the relay has been swum as a single team of eight girls rather than in the two teams of four that crossed the Channel. During the swim they were accompanied by a boat from the Lake Geneva Swimming Association to ensure their safety. Two captains and observers have attend the swim to monitor the legitimacy of the attempt.
The Geneva Lake Challenge:
The Geneva Lake Challenge Goals:
Eradicating Obstetric Fistula entirely would involve ensuring that fewer new cases appeared each year. The solution is a midwife. With $16,500 we could sponsor the four years of studies that it takes for a student to become a midwife. The newly university graduated midwife would then return to her village to help women during pregnancy and labour. In villages where midwives have returned from their studies, the number of cases of Obstetric Fistula has dropped to zero.
T.E.Y.Y.A. - "To Empower Youth by Youth Action"
At 16 our lives begin,
at 16 their lives have ended.
Our aim to fund at least 100 Fistula surgeries has been reached as 166 surgeries have been founded with the money donated. The money has been sent to the following hospitals:
An other one of our goals is to fundraise the five years education of a midwife at the Hamlin College of Midwives.
With both of these goals now achieved we have been able to send four cheques:
$60'000 to Hamlin Fistula Ethiopia
$16'500 to Hamlin College of Midwifes
$20'000 to Mercy Womans Hospital in Ghana
$27'500 to the Fistula Correction project at Senanga Hospital for a surgery camp in the western province of Zambia with the help of ZEEC.
Obstetric fistula is a condition which affects 2 million women in the world. Most of them are teenage girls who try to give birth too young. Their body is damaged for life. They wish they would have died with their stillborn baby. These women can be saved from a life of shame and misery with a now routine surgery. Please donate, as any small amount will make a massive difference!
The costs for the surgery, three weeks of care in a hospital and rehabilitation are up to US$600. Only $600 to give a woman her life back.
Theodosia went to visit the hospitals in Ethiopia and Ghana.
Mira and Ottavia went to Zambia.
60% of the money raised will go to the Hamlin Fistula Hospital in Ethiopia, the largest hospital in the world that solely treats this condition, 20% will go to the Mercy Women’s Hospital in Ghana, where many women, who suffer from Obstetric Fistula, are waiting for the funds for their surgery. The remaining 20% will go to the Fistula Hospital in Zambia.
Hamlin College of Midwives:
The Hamlins’ original plan for working in Ethiopia was to train midwives so that all women would have access to a clean, safe birth. With a population over 90 million there are only about 7,000 trained midwives in Ethiopia. Each year approximately 9,000 Ethiopian women die in obstructed labour and another 9,000 survive but with a debilitating fistula.
In 2007, almost 50 years later, Dr Hamlin returned to her original vision through the development of the Hamlin College of Midwives. Local Ethiopian midwives are recruited from high school graduates in the provinces who are trained in a four-year degree with a vigorous curriculum of theory and practice. They are then deployed back to the provinces to work alongside the regional fistula centres.
In 2010, the first 11 graduates were deployed in health centres in areas close to the fistula regional centres and since then there have been no maternal deaths in those districts. 87 students are currently studying and more than 80 midwives have already graduated. Hamlin midwives are working across 34 partner health centres and in Hamlin hospitals. In 2015 alone, Hamlin midwives attended more than 10,000 births, provided antenatal care for more than 18,000 women and conducted more than 5,000 postnatal care visits.
Photo and text taken from
It has been noticed that where ever a Hamlin midwife has been stationed, no new cases of obstetric fistula have been observed.