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Kaise Stephan – Swimmer, English Channel and Cancer Fundraiser (Part 1 of 3)

By Admin | December 12, 2008


Where are you from?

I am a resident of Sydney, Australia.

Originally born in London, England, lived in Amman Jordan for ten years before travelling down under to Australia. We love it here. It is a great place to live and enjoy opportunities that life can offer.

My parents are of Iraqi descent, we are Assyrians – the Christian minority of Iraq.

Where did you go to college and what was your academic major?

I went to college (University) in Macquarie University graduating with a Bachelor of Economics with Honors majoring in Actuarial Studies.

What has been your career path from college to now?

I worked in a number of general insurance firms in Australia over a ten year period, until settling with Munich Reinsurance. I have been with Munich Reinsurance for seven years now and my current role is the Appointed Actuary for Australia and New Zealand.

When did you start swimming?

I started swimming when my mum put me in the water at the age of six months in England. I started training for swimming from the age of seven in Jordan. Continued to swim in Australia.

Did you have a competitive swimming career?

Yes and no. Although, I participated in a number of swimming competitions in Jordan (National team) and Australia (NSW state competititions), I never turned into a professional full time swimmer. I was not fast enough, although I did notice that I had good endurance!!

Do you come from a family of swimmers?

No. Neither of my parents were competitive swimmers, although their love of water and swimming for the health and other benefits had an impact on me.

When did you decide to swim the English Channel?

In late 2005, my twelve year old cousin Mark was diagnosed with leukemia and was treated with Ccemotherapy at Sydney’s Children’s Hospital at Westmead (CHW).

At the time when I was visiting him, I saw life and death ebb and flow and I witnessed his courage in the face of suffering. I also saw other kids and families.

Lastly, I witnessed the great love and support from the doctors and nurses. That was it, I decided to dedicate something very big towards this circumstance.

I decided to swim the English Channel – the Everest of swimming – and dedicate that to Mark, other kids in his circumstance, and to fundraise for CHW cancer research team.

Forty years ago, only one in four kids survived cancer. Now, it is three in four, thanks to research. So, I thought if I can raise more funds and help research we can increase that even more, save that one more child.

Did you think about starting out with a smaller, more manageable swim?

The English Channel, representing a 35km stretch – 50km with tides – in 15C temperature water, with an expected 12-15 hours of nonstop swimming and one of busiest shipping lanes in the world, (with) jellyfish and sewage sounded scary, but that was not going to stop me.

When did you actually start to train for the Channel swim?

So God help me, I started my journey. I started to wake up at 4:30 am every day for two and a half years for daily intensive training before work, lunch swims, afternoon swims, weekend swims. In the pool, ocean and rivers. During winter for cold water training. During night time for dark training.

It was such a challenge to balance swimming, work, family – including a ten month old son. It was a daily test for me for two and a half years, I did not break. A parallel fight to my cousin’s.

Did you use some of the funds raised through your charity to meet your training and travel expenses?

Channel Crossing For Life (CCFL) as it came to be called became an official fundraising campaign of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead with full tax deductibility status. All funds raised dollar for dollar went to the hospital. I met all admin and logistical costs of this attempt.

We have raised to date $130,000 in under 12 months, aim to raise $200,000 so CHW can start its 2-3 year research project. So, the first physical and mental battle may have been won, but I cannot rest for too long as the funds still need to be raised till we reach our target.

How long did it take you to swim across the English Channel?

July 13, 2008 was the day of the attempt. I made it in 12 hours and 30 minutes .

Aren’t there easier and less personally strenuous ways to raise money in the fight against pediatric cancer?

I could have chosen to fundraise for cancer research in other ways, although, this was a vow. I intended it to be a parallel fight.

In the same way that my cousin was undergoing a challenge in life and trying to fight with his will and thoughts through the chemotherapy treatment, I was to struggle for two and a half years in preparing for this “Everest” of swimming and face my fears and challenges on the day of the swim itself.

Copyright 2008 DailyInterview.com

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