Polar bear swim helps refugees

Church-mosque alliance benefits from blustery beach day

Swimmers take a dip at Willows Beach to raise funds and awareness for Syrian refugee families.

Swimmers take a dip at Willows Beach to raise funds and awareness for Syrian refugee families.

A cool and blustery swim Saturday was “a lark” with important results for Carlton Monk.

Sixteen swimmers in Oak Bay raised well over $100,000, along with others taking a dip simultaneously in Quebec and elsewhere, to bring Syrian refugees to Canada. “It was wild but we went swimming anyway… with the logs flipping around like matchsticks,” Monk said. “It was really incredible.”

Monk, who lives just beyond the Oak Bay border, takes a daily dip at Willows Beach. “I go swimming every day in the ocean, I have this quack theory that it’s good for my health,” he said.

Monk was well known for doing a polar bear swim when he lived in Quebec. “Sometimes you had to really chop a hole in the ice and sometimes you didn’t,” he said with a chuckle.

Where he taught, they sponsored two refugee students a year, and he used the swim to raise funds for it. For him, like many, recent images of families devastated in Syria, and trying to leave, served as a wake-up call. “I don’t know why I hadn’t done anything before,” he said.

While not a member of the Oak Bay United Church, “a core group of real doers” inspired him to fundraise through a polar bear swim to aid the partnership of Oak Bay United, Masjid Al-Iman mosque and St. Aidan’s United Church to bring two or three refugee families to Victoria. (Donate online at oakbay-unitedchurch.ca.)

“Those are the people I’m going to lend my support to. They’re the ones that are going to have the hard job,” Monk said.

In a bid to get the word out, his wife made me a sandwich board that said “polar bear swim for refugees Dec. 5 10 a.m.”

He walked the streets of downtown Victoria and the Dallas walkway. He also promoted the swim during his daily Willows swims. People started asking to participate, so he gave them pledge forms.

Monk will never know exactly how much he raised, as people are simply inspired to donate straight to the cause. And those who swam alongside, each chose their own “constituent group,” a group of five or more working to bring a family to Canada.

“Ive been having fun … it’s a lark for us, for them it’s very serious,” he said.

“We go in for 10 minutes and get cold, then we go home to a warm house with our families and have something to eat. Refugees do not go home, or have something warm to eat … and they probably do not have their families with them, because most refugee families are broken up.”


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

There are many options for enjoying a meal out locally during Dine Around and Stay in Town, on now through Feb. 7. (10 Acres Commons)
Dine Around Stay in Town Victoria carries added importance during pandemic

Special menu items for eat in or takeout/delivery, staycation deals available through Feb. 7

(Black Press Media file photo)
Bylaw officers called to Saanich park for COVID-19 protocol violations on pickleball court

Raquet sport players reminded to avoid doubles play amid pandemic

Victoria police are asking for help locating Izabel Villeneuve, 14, who was last seen Jan. 19. (Courtesy of Victoria Police Department)
Victoria police seek help locating missing 14-year-old

Izabel Villeneuve was last seen in the morning of Jan. 19

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the legislature, Jan. 11, 2021. (B.C. government)
Vancouver Island smashes COVID-19 high: 47 new cases in a day

Blowing past previous records, Vancouver Island is not matching B.C.s downward trend

The cost of potentially counting deer regionwide was among the issues that prompted Capital Regional District committee members to vote against pursuing a greater CRD role in deer management. (Black Press Media file photo)
Expanded deer management a non-starter for Greater Victoria

Capital Regional District committee maintains current level of support

Businesses continue to struggle under COVID-19 restrictions as the pandemic reaches the one-year mark. (B.C. government)
Another 564 COVID-19 cases, mass vaccine plan coming Friday

15 more deaths, community cluster declared in Williams Lake

Anyone with information on any of these individuals is asked to call 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or visit the website victoriacrimestoppers.ca for more information.
Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Jan. 19

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

A specialized RCMP team is investigating a suspicious trailer, which might have connections to the illicit drug trade, found abandoned outside a Cache Creek motel. (Photo credit: <em>Journal</em> files)
Police probe U-Haul trailer linked to illicit drugs left outside Cache Creek motel

Hazardous materials found inside believed to be consistent with the production of illicit drugs

Premier John Horgan leaves the podium following his first press conference of the year as he comments on various questions from the media in the Press Gallery at B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Monday, January 13, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interprovincial travel restrictions a no-go, Horgan says after reviewing legal options

The B.C. NDP government sought legal advice as concerns of travel continue

Gem Lake Top, at Big White Ski Resort, seen at Jan. 8. (Big White Ski Resort)
Big White cancels $7.3M in lift tickets, accommodations due to COVID-19 orders

Since November, the ski resort has been forced to make several changes

Darlene Curylo scratched a $3M ticket, BCLC’s largest ever scratch and win prize. (BCLC)
Kelowna woman in shock after winning BCLC’s largest-ever instant-ticket prize

Darlene Curylo couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the amount of money she’d won from a scratch ticket

While each person has different reasons for becoming homeless, a UBCO study shows they learn through their interactions with different services to perform ‘as homeless’ based on the expectations of service providers. (Contributed)
Kelowna homeless forced to ‘perform’ for resources, says UBCO study

One participant in the study said ‘It is about looking homeless, but not too homeless’

Aquaculture employee from Vancouver Island, Michelle, poses with a comment that she received on social media. Facebook group Women in Canadian Salmon Farming started an online campaign #enoughisenough to highlight the harassment they were facing online after debates about Discovery Islands fish farms intensified on social media. (Submitted photo)
Female aquaculture employees report online bullying, say divisive debate has turned sexist

Vancouver Island’s female aquaculture employees start #enoughisenough to address misogynistic comments aimed at them

Most Read