Chilly dipping for refugee families

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Professor Sweetman and son Connor

A St Andrews University professor is taking chilly dips in the North Sea to help refugee families in Athens.

Professor Rebecca Sweetman, of the St Andrews University’s School of Classics, witnessed the plight of refugees from Syria, Kurdistan and Afghanistan while living in the Greek capital last year.

She explained: “These families have no sources of income and rely on the kindness of folk to keep them supported with food. “More often than not, things like soap and shampoo are just not affordable.”

As one of a group of volunteers in Athens, providing food and support for refugees, she visited children living in an abandoned school which had been turned into a squat by their families. There, she played and read with them.

Professor Sweetman said: “There are around 28 families living at the squat and that’s why I plan to do 28 swims in the North Sea. “After doing the New Year’s Day dook I thought it would be a massive challenge to do it again, perhaps even worth sponsoring, to do it 28 times.

“As I am returning to Athens in the spring, I would like to be able to help the families at the squat with some basic necessities and to help pay for some of the food deliveries.”

She added: “There is no getting away from the fact that the North Sea is cold, and frost on the beach after a swim is particularly challenging, but I have been given amazing support from so many people – some of whom have even joined me in the water and there have been some fantastic sun rises.”

Professor Sweetman, who has completed a quarter of her dips and raised more than £1,000, which will pay for about a month’s food, aims to complete her swims before the end of February.

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