30 soldiers from Wiltshire based 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (1 MERCIAN) have been using their rehabilitation time in the swimming pool to raise much needed funds and awareness for those affected by the recent volcanic eruptions on the Caribbean Island of St Vincent.
Personnel from MEEANEE Company, a rehabilitation platoon within 1 MERCIAN, undertook the challenge to swim a total of 56 miles, the distance representing the width of the Island of St Vincent on which Volcano Soufriere erupted earlier this year.
Major Martyn Fulford, Commanding Officer MEEANEE Company said: “The eruption is not that well known in the UK but it does affect a large proportion of our soldiers”
This series of natural disasters is having a big impact on personnel and their dependants from the Battalion as many of them come from the idyllic island which is now blanketed in volcanic ash. The ash then turns to concrete and destroys buildings and livestock. More than 15,000 people have had to leave their homes and are now living in temporary accommodation following ongoing eruptions which could last several months.
Second Lieutenant Ed Blacker commented on the shared ethos that makes up the Battalion: “It just shows that we are a good close-knit family regiment and we help out any families of soldiers in need”
On hearing news of the devastation on the island, the regiment’s chain of command reacted quickly, by releasing funds from the regimental charity to purchase essential items to send out to St. Vincent. In addition, each soldier with links to the island was given £300 to enable them to provide support for their families.
The fundraising idea came from Corporal Kareem Alexis, who has loved ones living on the Island, he said: “It is hard because my family is back in St. Vincent trying to rebuild the country. I’m so far away but am trying to do as much as I can to help out”
With Coronavirus restrictions the swim took place over three separate sessions and was completed successfully by the platoon with time to spare. More events are now planned by other units to support those in the Caribbean over the coming weeks.
The family of Sergeant Amnon May from 19th Regiment Royal Artillery (The Scottish Gunners) have also been affected by the eruption of Volcano ‘Soufriere’, he is also involved with raising funds and awareness.
“We feel helpless as we are so far away and we can not experience what people are going through. Our people are suffering but when we come together and do events like this, we are stronger.”