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By Jo Ward

District nurse Selena Victory has taken on a 100km swimming challenge to raise £2,000 in aid of RifCom, a charity assisting communities by improving healthcare and education in the Rif mountains in Morocco, which for someone who admits that she is not an avid swimmer is quite a task.

The Rif Community Foundation (RifCom) was started in 2008 by a group of like-minded individuals from Gibraltar and Spain who, after witnessing first-hand the poverty existing in the Moroccan Rif Mountains on a corporate challenge trek, decided to reach out and help their neighbouring communities.

“I have participated in RifCom fundraising challenges for the past two years,” she explains.  “Last year we climbed Toubkal and the year before that we did some climbs in the Atlas Mountains, along with other fundraising challenges that I have participated in.”

It was when a call came in from charity partners in Morocco that Selena decided she had to immediately do something to help. “Because of COVID-19 nobody had been able to go over to see what the situation was, but it was evident that the collapse of the area’s tourism industry meant that funds had dried up and people were struggling to provide even basic commodities for their families, such as food,” Selena explains.

Selena decided she had to immediately do something to help.

Selena says that she was first attracted by the fundraising challenges that took place in Morocco. “RifCom is a low key charity and they don’t get a lot of publicity,” she states. “It is entirely run by volunteers who do amazing work and have set up some great projects that benefit the impoverished communities of the Rif.”

These projects include providing educational and vocational training programmes for women. In one rural village, 25 young women graduated a seven-month training course in sewing and dressmaking, which, with assistance from RifCom and their local association, then led to the setting up of a sewing cooperative to enable them to create a sustainable source of income.

“The charity has helped build schools and they have also held football tournaments that have given them the opportunity to carry out educational projects where the kids learnt about dental hygiene and environmental conservation courtesy of Dental Mavericks and Barbary Macaque Awareness & Conservation,” Selena says. “It tends to be a holistic way of supporting the community and I really like that.”

“There was a plan to go to Jordan in November to trek across the desert,” Selena says, “but due to the coronavirus pandemic it is unlikely to go ahead now, so I decided I had to do something on my own that was challenging, but also something that I would be able to do.”

The plan is for Selena to swim 100km from 1st July 1 to 10th September – National Day – averaging 10km a week.  “My swimming is getting better all the time,” she comments. “I started slowly and have been gaining strength, and although I am usually a bit of a plodder in some of the challenges that I partake in – I’m always the last one on a hike or up the mountain – this is something I am doing on my own and at my own pace so I don’t have to compete with anybody.”

One of the hardest parts of the swim is fitting it in around her work commitments. “That is the toughest bit really, and I either have to go after work, early in the morning or at the weekends, but the biggest obstacle for me is getting myself down into the cold water,” she admits. Keeping fit is crucial and something that Selena has to keep in balance. “I have to make sure that I keep myself injury-free and that I am able to swim for the whole ten weeks in a very measured way – there is no point trying to do it really fast.”

Selena wold like to stress that if anybody was thinking of going over to Morocco for a trip this year that they now can’t do, please could they put the money towards a donation for her swimming challenge.  “RifCom works primarily around the province of Chefchaouen and if we want to carry on enjoying the pretty blue town and the wonderful, peaceful countryside in the future, we need to support the local community now.” She adds that whenever anybody takes part in the fundraising trips with RifCom they pay all their own expenses. “Every penny of the money we raise goes to charity,” she states.

To donate, visit: justgiving.com/fundraising/selena-victory3

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