In the seven short years of my swimming career, I have learned the importance of making these goals bigger than myself. It is about giving back to the community.
Participating in the first ever swim across the Dead Sea last November was a true highlight of my life. A once in a lifetime experience as part of an international team, we came together to rally around a single mission: raising global awareness for the depletion of that critical body of water. A feat made possible by unprecedented diplomatic approval from both the Israelis and Jordanians. A wonderful moment in time when a politicized region demonstrated to the world that cooperation is possible. Deeply affected by this gesture, I wondered if such diplomacy could be replicated in a region closer to home.
This year I have gathered a team of 12 swimmers from around the world, and on Friday 5th May, guided by six kayakers and a support vessel, we will embark on the first ever swim across the border from the USA to Mexico. We call this swim the Pan-American Colibrí Swim. While the distance is not much when compared to other swims I have completed, the distance is not important; the goal of our swim is to cast a global spotlight on human rights. We will start at Imperial Beach and end at Playas de Tijuana, a distance of approximately 10km. As part of our message we hope to raise funds and awareness for the Colibrí Center for Human Rights.
I feel so proud to be a part of this team. Our swim has yet to begin, but for much of this year, we have worked together tirelessly in that tiny slither of time afforded to each us, only after our work and family commitments have been satisfied. Driven by an ever-present enthusiasm, this has been a global collaboration across different time zones, religions and languages. A colossal undertaking of Speedo Diplomacy made possible through our shared connection of empathy, anchored firmly on the conviction that no human should suffer, and a fundamental belief that we are all capable of making a difference in the world, a place that at times feels insufferable.
While I am aware that unfortunately human rights are highly politicized across the globe, this swim is not a protest. This swim is about love, kindness and empathy for others while raising funds and awareness for the Colibrí Center for Human Rights, an organization worthy of support. Nothing more, nothing less.
Politics simply should not matter. It about compassion for others, and knowing that we - as global citizens - have a duty to help each other, however we can. Indeed, this is about giving back.
We have specifically chosen not to align with any politicians, instead leading from the heart with authenticity. Most importantly we have been particularly diligent to operate clearly within the bounds of the law, and have the full support and approval from the US Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, Mexican Navy, and Mexican Immigration authorities. The process of interacting with each of these agencies has been nothing short of incredible. A reminder that if one gives kindness and respect, oftentimes you receive that in return. And last but not least, we have the endorsement of world-renowned singer and humanitarian, Sting who generously gave us his time crafting a video message of support.
Arriving in Mexican waters, we will be escorted by the Mexican Navy. Walking up on land in Mexico we will be greeted by 200 children from underserved communities in Tijuana, many of whom have never even seen the ocean. We are literally handing our message to the next generation, in the hope that they can see with their own eyes that they too can have impact, and can do this lawfully, and with grace. Mexican officials will formally process us on the beach, providing all necessary passport stamps. Then we will host a ceremony in Rosarito alongside the children, and return across the border via car later that day.
As a team we are motivated by our shared desire to be of service, utilizing our passion for swimming as a universal expression of kindness and unity. We hope that perhaps, and even for the briefest of moments, the world can come together around a common understanding of human suffering, and connect with an open heart to see “them” - the migrants – as “us.”
More details on our swim below: