Simon Grier grew up in Malawi and has raised £2,200 for charity work there. Here he tells Aidan Barlow about taking on his fear of the deep and swimming to the pier head and back
I was born in Zambia, and then grew up in Malawi, where my parents worked. I was the eldest at seven brothers and sisters, but we all live in the Herne Bay area now. For the past two years I have been working as the house manager for Thwaytes Court in Beltinge, which gives people retirement apartments for independent living. I’ve been working in management for many years, and live in Herne Bay with my wife and four children. Most of my family are also here, and it’s a friendly town by the seaside.
How did the swim go?
The weather was not great, the waves were quite big and for a long time was swimming against the tide and the wind. I had checked with the emergency services, and had my friend Roger Butler in the canoe just in case anything went wrong. It got better at the pier head itself, because I could change direction and come back to shore. So I relaxed and was able to really enjoy the swim after that. It took an hour and 10 minutes, and there were about 100 people shouting and cheering when I got back. I chose the pier head because us a place that everyone knows about. It us quickly recognisable, and a lot of people can really associate with it. Everyone therefore knew exactly what I was taking on and what I was doing to raise the money.
What experience did you have?
I’m not an expert swimmer, and I hadn’t done anything like this before. I’m just an average bloke. The last lime I swam was at school really. I trained for three months, and was glad I did that because it realty helped my confidence. I wanted to ralse money, so I thought what can I do to challenge myself. I thought a lot of people get fearful when they swim out to sea because of things like jellyfish and their feet not being able to touch the bottom. I wanted to overcome the physical fear of the deep. I spent two to three days training, and couldn’t get beyond about 15 to 20 feet out. When I did it, because it was so tough I just kept going.
Tell us about your charity fundraising
I have raised £2,200 in total, and £1,300 has come from the homeowners at Thwaytes Court. They have been really supportive, and many of them were there to help cheer me on along with my family. The charity, the Malawi Association for Christian Support, will be doing work in the remote villages away from the main towns in Malawi, where there is very little money. I will be going out there, and it’s my chance to go back to where I grew up and give something back. I will visit a place called Nkope in July. We will be taking part in DIY at the health centre and primary school there. They have also supported building hostels for boys and girls with blindness and poor vision, with one centre completed and another under construction. It’s the first time I have ever been involved in raising money for charity and it’s a really good cause. It’s going to be difficult because I’m going to see a different side to my childhood, and a different side to life out there. I’m going to see that the people there are proud but there is not a lot of money.
• Donate to Simon at www.mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/simongrier1
Herne Bay Gazette, July 3rd 2014