Swimming To Stop The Cycle Of Trauma

£4,205 of £3,000 goal

Raised by 110 people in 10 months
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead

Welcome to my CHANNEL HOPE Campaign! I am so glad you're here and hope that after you read more about why I am swimming the English Channel, you'll sponsor my swim, or support one of my two chosen charities, so that together we can inspire others.

In July 2019, I'll be swimming over 14 hours as the first Tongan-American, and Samoan native to swim the English Channel because I want to help break cycles of trauma. That's right, at least 21 miles alone, through hundreds of super-tankers, stinging jellyfish and ice cold water cold enough to kill,  across the busiest shipping lane in the world. 

But why attempt this?

Because there’s a far bigger challenge and the chances are someone you know  - here in the UK or on dry land beyond - is facing it right now.

As someone who understands the multi-layered impact of trauma as a trauma survivor myself, I know all too well that well-timed and  thoughtfully delivered interventions are key to any successful recovery. Without them,  I have witnessed first-hand how quickly one can spiral into isolation and dark places in the mind. I have lived this myself.  You probably know someone like that, too - but they haven’t told you.

So what do I mean by trauma?  Trauma: emotional shock following a stressful event or a physical injury, which may lead to long-term neurosis.

Trauma impacts large swaths of our society, from war veterans to abuse survivors, from the suicide bereaved to emergency service workers. But no one is really talking about it. Instead, the majority of trauma survivors have to figure their own way out of periods of neurosis with little to no help from others.

Born thousands of miles from the mainland, as a Pacific Islander, I grew up in a culture that didn't talk about mental health or the lifelong effects of trauma.  It took many years before I was formally diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder resulting from abuses sustained as a child and a subsequent assault years later. For many years I struggled silently, afraid to talk -  years I didn’t want to die -  but I didn't know how to live either.

Now a resident in the UK, I was finally assessed and diagnosed in 2015. Sadly it was a hard fought victory that came too late for my own beautiful and incredibly talented mum, who hid  her own struggle, until her sudden death by suicide.

Three years on, I am not afraid anymore. But I am very concerned. Within our communities, we still have a limited understanding of how trauma changes people mentally and emotionally. The inability to talk about this or even sign-post resources often leaves people feeling scared and vulnerable. Yet without help and easy access to resources, their lives are at increased risk.

When we don’t talk or treat – we jeopardise human life. How? Well, tomorrow alone - 16 people in the UK alone will have taken their own lives that could get help today. And still thousands more will silently fade into the shadows. But it does not have to be this way.

I was one of the lucky ones who had the right intervention – and my re-ignited passion for swimming and campaigning are evidence that trauma is treatable and that there is hope. That's why I want to channel hope for others but I can't do it alone.

My journey witnessed unexpected sources of support, numerous trauma survivors, and reconnected me with something I’ve always loved – the healing power of open water swimming. And now my biggest ever journey, with your help, can inspire many others in their own recovery -  not to give up – not to be consumed beneath their own dark waves of hopelessness.  

So I hope you’ll support me in this once in a lifetime challenge.

How can you help? You can do so in one of several ways:

1) Sponsor my historic attempt (I'll be the 1st female Pacific Islander in history) by donating on this page. Your much needed sponsorship will help to get me across the channel.

2) Donate to Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide so we can keep their vital support services thriving. You can donate on the page I created: https://www.gofundme.com/ndvck7-a-cause-i-care-about-needs-help

3) Donate to The Children's Trust so we can help give children with brain injury the best possible future. You can donate on the page I created: https://www.gofundme.com/manage/halani039s-campaign-for-the-children039s-trust

4)  Share this story on your social media or with the local press. The more we can raise awareness, the more we can help others in need.

Let's Channel Hope together!

Thank you for taking time to read this!

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To each and every one of you, thank you so very much for your support. It's been incredible!

Yesterday, after 13+ plus hours of swimming the tides turned against me and so I had to make a very tough decision. My left shoulder which has been problematic at times on my long swims was starting to slow me down and so that coupled with the strength of the tide which would be pulling me away from the french coastline, I would have another 10 - 12 hours minimum before I would reach France.

I am as stubborn as they come when I believe in something but I realised that in this case, I was essentially looking at two choices:

1) Risk the possibility of serious damage to my shoulder for the sake of reaching France


2) Build on the strong foundation I now have to tweak any future attempt and come back twice as strong.

An undertaking of this scale required total investment of all my resources - time, energy, money - and so it was painful to think of doing it all over again. But in the end, I know it was the right decision to make.

While I did not reach France on this occasion which was an important goal, an immense amount of good has come out of this experience. I've been able to raise money for two incredible charities and help spread the word of the invaluable work they do. I have a third US based contributor who has agreed to match fund all fundraising income and donate it to a US based charity of my choice. This swim has also inspired many others take on their own challenges and find ways to break through their own personal barriers they once believed were holding them back. And I get to hear all about these stories now which fill me with joy because it shows that power of human potential that is very much alive inside all of us.

It's been an incredible journey and I cannot thank you enough for your support. Together, we really did and will continue to "Channel Hope" for others.

With love and gratitude,

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Important update: I'm scheduled to set off tomorrow night (16/07) at approximately 10:30pm. So just as those of you in the UK get ready for bed, I'll be jumping into the cold English Channel for the ultimate endurance challenge!

Please watch this space and know that your support has made all the difference!

A bientot!

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July greetings!

It’s hard to believe that my scheduled tide to swim the channel is just two weeks away now! Where has all the time gone? Well, training, of course. But last week was a good week for all things swimming - with a bake sale at The Children’s Trust. I was able to use the excitement around my swim to fundraise for this incredible charity that supports children with brain injury and neuro-disability. We managed to raise a whopping £223.30 from baked goods!!! In truth, everyone was also extraordinarily supportive and generous which made a big difference.

Last weekend also saw the last of my long swims. before the channel. Saturday was glorious with little wind and lots of blue sky and sunshine. After 7 hours of swimming (18k) - I thought to myself, “I still have more in me. I could keep swimming!” Of course, I didn’t -knowing that I had another long swim on Sunday.

And when I woke Sunday, although I was a little stiff - I felt pretty good, until about 2 1/2 hours into my swim. The sunshine that started the day quickly disappeared behind the clouds, replaced by grey and increasing winds. In short - it turned into a tough swim because as the wind picked up, it made swimming an exhausting exercise. Although I was only told to swim four hours - I decided to swim six so that I had another long back to back swims in the bank. By hour three, I deeply regretted that choice but knew if I could push through this, it would serve me well in the English Channel.

Tired shoulders, cold body, and three jellyfish stings later, one across my entire face just as I finished (!), I finally came to shore - completing the six hours I set out to do irrespective of conditions. Hallelujah! But it did not come easy. Please see the following social media post that highlights the ups and downs of an endurance sport and what I truly had tap into to to get myself through...
It’s taken a moment to write about my past weekend in Dover because it’s one that I’ve needed to reflect on. I know many posts celebrate the successes in training but often there is so much more going on underneath the surface for me. You see, an endurance sport is far less about our physical ability as it about our mental one.

Although I completed my longest swims to date - a 7 hour and a 6 hour swim, this weekend felt very bittersweet. In fact. it’s been a whole mix of emotions: of awe; of love; of fatigue; of determination; of camaraderie; and of isolation.

Something happened to me for the first time when I swam yesterday.

In the third hour, I found myself crying into my goggles and wailing into the sea. It just overcame me, all these emotions about the journey I’ve been on, about sacrifice and the human struggle to overcome so many obstacles.

As I swam, the wind swept the surface of the water, pushing me, swallowing me, and slapping me repeatedly across the side of my head. Every stroke required twice the effort to go half as far. It felt fruitless but still I swam, one stroke after another.

In the final 2 hours an angel took me under his wing (thank you Michael D Tees!) and we swam the mile long loops together. As we completed our first loop, swimming headlong into the wind that seemed to be pushing us further from the shore he said, “You really pick up pace when you swim against the wind. You even made me work for it, to keep up with you.”

Funny that... because I guess it’s true because it’s my life story. When the wind blows against me, by the grace of God I move harder and faster. That’s why it’s bittersweet, because it’s a skill learned from a life rich with setbacks and tragedies. But it’s a blessing because it’s what keeps me alive.

They say that swimming the channel changes you but the truth is, I know that I already am changing. Every weekend with this extraordinary community, every day with other extraordinary people, I become even richer in spirit and strength. And so the tears have turned to that of gratitude and relief. I am so lucky to be alive and to have the strength to swim through these storms after all.
Stay tuned for the next stage of this adventure!

With much appreciation and love,

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Completed back to back long swims this weekend! My first time ever and thought it might not happen. During my swim on Saturday, my left shoulder developed a strange, at times agonzing pain, by the 4th hour. But I carried on to complete a 6 hour swim. I took the night to nurture myself and rest, to let the muscle tears do what they needed to do to heal themselves; to thank my mind and body for getting me that far. I went to bed early and slept nearly nine hours!

Still, I went into my swim on Sunday with great trepidation, fearing that I would find myself in the same painful place. Although I was only given 4 hours to swim (to my surprise!) I didn’t want to stop there. I took it nice and easy to begin with, focusing on my technique with every stroke, and then suddenly found myself singing “Don’t Stop Believing” as I began each mile lap, settling into another stretch of sea before me. I imagined the sea wall was France and so kept moving my body with mindful intention. The shoulder pain never reappeared.

However, the weather turned and the sea soon become more fierce. She was colder, too. But at hour 5 I knew I had more and so pushed on through. My scheduled tide is only three and a half weeks away, so I had to have this in the bag and will push hard again next week, too before I taper my training.

It’s funny because so many things run through your mind on these long swims as you observe your body morph continuously between places of comfort and discomfort... often discomfort. But it occurred to me on Sunday that when people often ask me, “what do you think about when you swim for so long?” As I sang this early 80’s song to myself on my final mile, I realised... I just “don’t stop believing.”

Thank you for your support all along the way! Each of you helps me to truly keep the faith when I'm cold and tired. I simply could not do it without you!

Lots of love and gratitude,

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Raised by 110 people in 10 months
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