BEHIND THE SCENES OF THE ASPIRE CHANNEL SWIM
Alice Hanson-Bray has been working for Aspire for 6 months, and talk about her proudest achievements, her inspiration and top tips!
1. When did you start working for Aspire?
I started working at Aspire just over 6 months ago – this is my first job post university!
2. What is your role at Aspire?
My official job title is Events Fundraiser and Administrator, but that encompasses a wide range of roles. While I manage a couple of smaller events such as the Superhero Tri, Parallel London and RideLondon 100, the majority of my time is spent working on the Aspire Channel Swim. I am normally the first person supporters will contact with when they get in touch with the Aspire Channel Swim as I am the first port of call for supporter communications.
If in the past 6 months you’ve emailed, phoned or posted something on our social media pages it will most likely have been me responding to you! I love this aspect of my job as there are so many brilliant supporters swimming for Aspire, and it’s so lovely speaking to all of them and finding out the inspirational stories behind why they’re participating in the Aspire Channel Swim, or what obstacles they’ve overcome to complete the challenge.
3. When did you first hear of Aspire?
Honestly the first time I heard of Aspire was when I applied for the role as, thankfully, I am lucky enough to have not had anyone close to me become injured with a spinal cord injury. Without the brilliant fundraising of Aspire Channel Swimmers we wouldn’t be able to continue providing essential practical help to people who have been paralysed by spinal cord injuries.
4. What inspired you to work at Aspire?
I have always wanted to be in a career that helped people but I wasn’t sure for a long time what that career was going to be. Just after I finished university I volunteered with a charity in Africa where I managed an education based project in a South African township. Immediately I knew that the non-profit sector was where I wanted to work, and especially in a role communicating with people as in Africa my favourite aspect of the role was working with the local community. When I returned home I began job searching, and straight away was drawn to Aspire’s job advert. I really liked their ethos of making every fundraiser feel special, no matter how much they’d raised. It’s one of the great benefits of working for a smaller charity; you can really get to know your supporters. I was also really inspired by the work Aspire actually does. A spinal cord injury has the power to be completely life changing, and I think that the emphasis Aspire places on regaining independence is brilliant.
5. What have been your biggest achievements since you started working for the charity?
There have been some really incredible stories this year from participants who have swum the Aspire Channel Swim despite some serious personal obstacles such as depression, spinal cord injury and even a brain injury!
I am so proud of finding these stories and sharing them with others, but mostly I’m just proud to have spoken to these amazing people. It’s so motivating and really encourages me to continue doing what I’m doing as I can see that this event doesn’t only help those with spinal cord injuries from the money it raises, but it also has the power to empower and change the lives of those taking part.
6. Can you offer 3 pieces of advice to someone who is nervous about complete the Aspire Channel Swim Challenge?
Have confidence in yourself! You can absolutely complete the challenge, that’s the brilliant thing about this swim; no one is too unfit or too slow to take part! There is such a range of people completing the Aspire Channel Swim; we’ve got 8 year olds taking it 10 lengths at a time, 80 year olds walking their lengths in the shallow end, speedy swimmers completing the whole challenge in 22 days, a 13 year old who swam 220 miles in 12 weeks, families completing the swim as a team… everyone and anyone can complete the Aspire Channel Swim. It doesn’t matter how slow you go; forward is forward (and you’re still lapping everyone on the couch!).
Don’t overthink the lengths you have to do. The first session might be difficult, but before you know it swimming will become a habit and you’ll actually find yourself missing the pool! Keep track of your lengths on your online Aspire Channel Swim profile as well, as watching your dot move across the virtual Channel will really help motivate you to keep going!
Start fundraising early. JustGiving is an incredible resource for fundraising and when you sign up we handily create a page for you, so make sure you share your page on social media, ask your family and friends for donations and see if your employer will do matched giving. If you don’t ask you don’t get, and in my experience people are happy to donate. It’s easy to forget that the Aspire Channel Swim is at its heart a fundraising event, but you absolutely cannot forget that fact because, as I mentioned, Aspire relies on the money our supporters raise.