CHRISTIAN

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Chris is 29 years old and was born in Kivu province, Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. In November 2002, the Rwandese Hutu rebels attacked his village, MUDAKA , 20 km away from Bukavu. Villagers were killed and livestock and goods were stolen. Chris and his brother, along with other children, were taken by the rebels in part to carry the stolen goods. Because Chris’ brother was tired and did not walk fast enough, he was shot by the rebels, right in front of Chris.

A few days later, Chris and a small group of children managed to escape during the night. While escaping, Chris fell and hurt his leg . It was only three days later that his parents along with other villagers came to rescue him. Chris was hospitalized for 11 months but doctors could not save his leg. At the age of 15, his right leg was amputated above the knee. To pay for the treatment his family had to sell their house, livestock, and essentially everything they owned.

Three years later that Chris was eventually fitted with a prosthetic, a very basic one that does not allow him to move properly and which is extremely painful.

In spite of all of this, Chris is resourceful and determined. He went to Bujumbura (Burundi) to study economics. He funded his study by doing small jobs and selling ‘pagne’ which he imported from Bukavu .

These days Chris is an aid worker back in Kivu. It was in 2015 whilst working for the same NGO that Chris and Caroline met for the first time.

 

LAURA

Hi, I’m Laura Leemans.

I am a 33 years old State employee from Brussels. My parents learnt me to swim when I was 3 years old, since that moment I was always fond of being in the water. Especially the sea, I always, enjoyed very much.

From my sixth till I was eleven, I swam very regularly. In that period, I practiced in a swimming club several hours a week. I always kept swimming.

Over the last 3-4 years , I took up swimming again in a club where I had the pleasure to meet Caroline. We immediately became good friends.

We share a passion for swimming and after a swimming training, we took a glass together. It was there that Caroline started to talk to me about a crazy project: to swim 12-mile Strait of Gibraltar from Spain to Morocco. And this to fund the prosthetic leg of her Congolese friend Chris.

I immediately loved the project !

Our physical effort of crossing the sea between Europe and Africa, where so many people try to reach our continent, has also a strong symbolic meaning!

 

 

 
My cousin and me swimming in France (Ile de Ré)

My cousin and me swimming in France (Ile de Ré)

 

CAROLINE

 
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I am a 31 year old aid worker from Normandy. I was raised near the sea and the noise of the waves has always reminded me of my childhood. Although salt water has always felt like home, I was never a swimmer. It was only two years ago, when I started to train in Brussels that swimming became a very big part of my life. Sharing this passion with my good friend Laura has been fantastic and raising money to fit Chris with a proper prosthetic means a lot to me. Indeed, I have always been a sporty person and could not imagine not being able to move freely. Having traveled frequently to Kivu, I know just how difficult life can be there and that unless we help him, there is no other way for Chris to get a proper prosthetic leg.