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Munich Swims for Life to Aid Refugees

By Louise Holland
Munich Swims for Life to Aid Refugees

One year after hundreds of thousands of refugees flooded into Munich Haupbahnhof, 120 “bravehearts” took the plunge at the HVB Club Pool, and participated in the inaugural Swim For Life fundraising event to help integrate those now trying to make a new life in Munich.
Thirty teams of four swimmers each swam a total 91.5 km in five hours and raised over US$14,000 to match the huge support of US$11,000 from sponsors Riedel Immobilien and media partner Seuddeutsche Zeitung.
The early hours already signaled the start of an event in which everyone involved in whatever capacity showed great energy, excitement, and a positive “can do” attitude. Strategies quickly developed to maximize the distance achieved in the time allotted as a continuous relay of human endeavor alongside each other, all for the fun of it. This resulted in the whole pool being alive with swimmers, young and old, and their supporters delighting in their achievements as they pushed their limbs and lungs to their “wide ranging” personal limits. Team Family Phillips set the record of the furthest distance swum in the hour of 179 lengths (4.48 km). The Sea Lions team of those under 14 years managed a very respectable 151 lengths (3.8 km).
The “Ampercussions” band kept the fun and energetic atmosphere going throughout the morning. When one hundred refugees arrived in the “Amper Campus” in the small village of Haimhausen last year, Bertrand Koehler, from Helferkreis Haimhausen, came with his saxophone, a djembé drum, and several other percussion instruments proposing what would become a weekly jam session, “just for fun.” Now they perform in private and public events offering improvised rhythms and a great “intercultural” mood.
The Swim Across the Schools team (172 lengths, 4.3 km) was comprised of Chrissie Sorenson, Director at Bavarian International School, Adam Smith, Deputy Director at St. George’s School, plus swim coaches Heiko Horn at Munich International School and Ben Krodel at PHORMS. These four international school communities extended the message of Swim For Life—Helping Germany Help the Refugees—to Munich’s wider international community. Thanks to the brave 30 teams that signed up for the event and fundraised; money continues to be donated from all over the world to support Munich’s organizations managing the refugees.
Ameer Mehtr previously trained with the Syrian national swimming team in the capital Damascus. He realized his only chance of starting a new life in the EU was to take his chances swimming the six kilometers across the Aegan Sea from Turkey to the Greek island of Samos.
This story amongst many inspired Louise Holland, Board Vice Chair at Bavarian International School, to develop the idea of Swim For Life. However, this would never have come to light without the support of so many positive people looking to break barriers and help find solutions.
Munich has set the benchmark for other German cities to help support the work needed for quick and effective integration of their refugees.

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