Leah Chowdhry, one of the first young British Asian women to swim the English Channel, has been conferred the Woman of the Year award the London Asian Business Awards. She was honoured, along with other achievers from different fields, at the 2nd London Asian Business Awards ceremony held in the UK capital on October 29.

Indian-origin Leah Chowdhry completed the gruelling 30-mile English Channel swim in 13 degrees water in just under 15 hours on July 4th, 2018, becoming the one of the first, recorded, young British Asian women to achieve the feat. The 25-year-old’s aim was to raise funds for a project run by The British Asian Trust, and she managed to raise over £50,000 with help from family and friends.

“I am honoured to be one of the first ever British Asian women to take on this challenge, with only just short of 1500 people to ever complete the swim,” Leah had said before undertaking the challenge.

Leah, along with The British Asian Trust, is working in the red light districts of Mumbai to protect children vulnerable to commercial sexual exploitation and trafficking. The organisation runs three night care centres for such children who are at risk, as well as shelter homes and a residential training centre for the rescued girls.

Leah had said this project would support India’s first online resource centre on the prevention of sexual offences against children, and also provide 80 women and young girls aged over 15 with a rehabilitation programme so that they can build better futures for themselves.

READ | Leah Chowdhry all set for English Channel challenge to raise funds for Mumbai’s child trafficking victims

“Child trafficking and child prostitution is a billion-dollar business in India. It is estimated that 1.2 million children in India are subjected to commercial sexual exploitation,” she said.

Before embarking on her journey, Leah released a video in which she spoke about the hard work and preparation that she put in to complete the challenge.

 

Speaking to The Statesman earlier this year, Leah had said, “The reason why I am doing this is that I want to make sure that every child, whether in the UK or in India, has a better future.”

A national-level swimmer when she was younger, Leah started training to swim in the English Channel in early 2017.

In an interview to asian-voice.com after she completed the challenge, Leah said she swam “up and down pools in East London and Surrey” to build up her stamina. She worked with her coach, Tim, who specialises in English Channel swimming.

Speaking about the preparation, Leah said she had to put on weight because the biggest risk of swimming the English Channel was dying of hyperthermia. “There are about five or six deaths a year and it’s very common to pass out from the challenge,” she said in the interview.

“It’s over 14 hours so you’re only allowed to stop for 30 seconds for feeds. Because the feeds are all liquid, you need to build up your carbohydrates before so that you can last the duration without food.”

Leah has had all the support from her father Jeffry Chowdhry, a mutual fund manager in the UK, and mother Rita Chowdhry.

“She was passionate about making a difference. She is putting her life at risk to help others,” Rita told The Statesman in March.

Father Jeffry Chowdhry is of the opinion that lots of good work is done by NGOs and individuals in India but “there is not much publicity in the areas which need help”.