Angmering pensioner’s epic swim to aid ebola war

Penelope Sharman, who raised more than �1,400 for communities affected by ebola, with a sponsored swim of 70 lengths, one for each year of her life, on her 70th birthday
Penelope Sharman, who raised more than �1,400 for communities affected by ebola, with a sponsored swim of 70 lengths, one for each year of her life, on her 70th birthday

ONE length of a swimming pool for each of her 70 years was an Angmering charity founder’s response to helping a country which has been put back decades by ebola.

Penelope Sharman, of High Street, raised more than £1,400 by completing a 1,750m swim at the David Lloyd sports centre in Durrington on Friday (December 5), her 70th birthday.

The money will go to Education West Africa, the charity Penelope set up a decade ago to support schools in the region. It will pay for soap, disinfectant and other hygiene products in a desperate bid to keep Ebola at bay, and will also provide much-needed food.

She said after her swim: “I was elated. It was lovely. I was tired, but twice previously I had swum 60 lengths, so I knew I could go that far.

“The oddest things was I seemed to go faster than before. I told David Lloyd’s that I would take about a minute for each length, but ended up doing 70 in an hour.

“Chris Harris, the office administrator at St Margaret’s Church (in Angmering) did a couple of lengths with me at the beginning, and a couple more at the end, which was lovely, and gave me a real lift.”

Much of the sponsorship came from the congregation of St Margaret’s, where Penelope is a member. The Sunday before taking the plunge, she was persuaded by the rector, Canon Mark Standen, to ‘swim’ on the spot in the welcome area after the service, and was given £85 in spontaneous donations.

“I’ve had a wonderful reaction from so many people. The other day I was in a shop, talking about my swim, and a complete stranger handed me a £10 note. Someone who heard me being interviewed on BBC Sussex sent me a cheque for £100 and our bank manager took a sponsor form and collected £20-odd.”

Penelope, who has made numerous visits to west Africa, said: ““Sierra Leone was the poorest of the west African countries, but before Ebola came along, its financial situation was improving slowly. Now no one can work and the farms are going to wrack and ruin. It has set the country back decades, which is what upsets me so much.”