Long-distance swimmer Leah Chowdhry, a United Kingdom resident of Asian descent, is all set to embark on a gruelling 22-mile journey across the English Channel. In July, the 25-year-old will undertake the swim in 13 degrees water to raise funds for a project run by The British Asian Trust.
Leah, along with the organisation, 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 says this project will 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.
“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,” says Leah, adding: “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.”
Check out the video where Leah is speaking about the hard work and preparation that she has put in to complete the challenge.
In a post on online crowdfunding platform www.justgiving.com, Leah Chowdhry writes: “Taking on average 13 hours, in light and darkness I will be battling with jelly fish, ship tankers and sea sickness but I am prepared to train hard to support an incredible cause that I am so passionate about.”
Leah is trying to raise £75,000 for the project. “With a huge challenge ahead of me, both physically and mentally, I would be hugely grateful for any donations towards this life changing project,” she writes in the post.
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 last July. “My training consisted of 25 km per week which takes about 10 hours.”
Leah has 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”.