Ohio Wesleyan University Students to Swim the English Channel
May 27, 2009
“Friendship is the only cement that will ever hold the world together”
As part of their 21-mile relay swim in the frigid Channel, the Ohio Wesleyan seniors are raising funds to support the Pakistani relief efforts of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical humanitarian organization.
Usman Javaid of Lahore, Pakistan, and David Gatz of Delaware, Ohio, both are members of Ohio Wesleyan’s varsity swim team. They met as freshmen, when they began to challenge each other to races. Since then, the friendship between Javaid, a double major in economics and international relations, and Gatz, a double major in biochemistry and pre-professional medicine, has continued to deepen.
“It is our sincere hope that our efforts will raise awareness of the need for international friendship and cooperation in addressing many of the world’s challenges,” the swimmers state. “It can be a challenge within our daily lives to reach out and befriend someone of another culture, but these are the steps that bring about a unified world.”
Gatz said the two chose to swim the English Channel because it represents the “Mount Everest of swimming challenges” and is a physically and mentally demanding feat that “only the best of friends would be willing to undertake together.” They have named their effort the “Channeling Peace Initiative.”
Javaid and Gatz are scheduled to make their Channel swim between July 28 and Aug. 6, with the weather determining exactly when they take the plunge. Once they dive in, the men will alternate one-hour swims, braving the 60- to 65-degree Fahrenheit water and 3- to 5-foot waves wearing only a Speedo, swim cap, and goggles. Thermal suits and other protective gear aren’t allowed if the swim is to be officially recognized.
The Ohio Wesleyan students began training in earnest in April for their Channel swim, which is expected to take between 12 hours and 14 hours to complete. That training has included spending hours in Delaware’s icy Alum Creek, and experiencing “convulsing shivers” afterward, to acclimate themselves to the strength-sapping cold of the English Channel.
Among those accompanying Javaid and Gatz to Europe will be Ohio Wesleyan varsity swim coach Richard Hawes, who helped to devise training regimens for the pair, and university Chaplain Jon Powers, who is helping them to reach out to government leaders and faith-based organizations to support their international fund-raising and friend-raising venture.
Powers said the men’s efforts are inspiring. “Usman and David provide a tangible example of the power of friendship and cooperation in changing the world,” the chaplain said. “Their friendship transcends the boundaries of nationality, politics, culture, and religion. They remind us of what is possible when we make sacrifices and work together.”
Rock Jones, Ph.D., president of Ohio Wesleyan, also praised their leadership and vision. “Usman and David represent the best of their generation,” Jones said. “They have vision and purpose, and feel a moral responsibility to aid others. They truly are ‘channeling peace’ with this swim and with their lives.”
To learn more about Javaid and Gatz’s “Channeling Peace Initiative,” including how to support their endeavor, visit www.channelingpeace.org. For more information about Doctors Without Borders, visit www.doctorswithoutborders.org.
Ohio Wesleyan University is an undergraduate liberal arts college that transforms the lives of its students through a combination of rigorous academics, mentoring relationships, and real-world experiences. Featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives,” the private university’s 1,850 students come from 47 states and 50 countries. Visit www.owu.edu for more information.
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