‘English Channel Swim for Cheshire Disability Services’

Neil Papenfus (GM, Pacific Towing) together with Deborah Onga (Group Legal Counsel, Steamships) after his previous fundraising swim for Cheshire Disability Services. Neil’s fundraising goal for the 2023 English Channel Swim is K100,000.

An open ocean swim between England and France is the latest fundraising activity being planned for Cheshire Disability Services, the leading charity for people living with disabilities in PNG. The swim is being supported by the Steamships Group, with 100 percent of all sponsorship money going towards initiatives that will directly benefit people with disabilities and the families who support them.

The English Channel Swim attracts endurance athletes from many different nations. Zimbabwean born, South African citizen and permanent PNG resident, Neil Papenfus, a General Manager in Steamships’ Logistics Division, is attempting the world-famous swim for the first time.

Papenfus and Steamships raised K10,000 for Cheshire Disability Services a year ago when Papenfus completed a 13km swim in Port Moresby’s Fairfax Harbour. Inspired to push himself further physically and raise considerably more money for the charity he describes as “providing life changing and even lifesaving services to some of the most disadvantaged people in our community”, Papenfus has officially registered to swim the English Channel in October 2023.

Cheshire Disability Services General Manager Benard Ayioko stresses that “people living with disabilities in PNG are particularly disadvantaged. There are minimal resources and services to support them and their families. Stigma and traditional beliefs also often prevent families from seeking out what few services are available. Additionally, remoteness and the lack of adequate transport pose significant barriers to accessing desperately needed help.”

Cheshire Disability Services rely overwhelmingly on fundraising initiatives, private donations, and partnerships with a range of different organisations to develop and deliver their services. “Without the support and generosity of businesses like Steamships, it is impossible to do the work we do” confirms Ayioko. “We hope that lots of other businesses sponsor Neil’s English Channel swim too.”

Papenfus expects the swim to take him around 16 hours. The shortest route to swim across the English Channel is 34 km long, but this can change significantly with the current, as well as the rise and fall of tides. Swimmers often end up swimming from 40-45 kms in an ‘S’ shape and at times against the current. 

“It’s not the distance, or even how long it’s going to take to do the swim that worries me” says Papenfus “but the water temperature.” An understandable concern given that most of his training takes place in and around Fairfax harbour where the average October water temperature is 26⁰C compared to the English Channel’s – literally bone-chilling – 16⁰C. 

There are other factors to worry about when swimming the Channel which is one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world. On average, 600 tankers and 200 ferries pass through the channel every day. Jellyfish are also notorious pests to Channel swimmers.

Icy water, marine traffic, and jellyfish aside, knowing what good work Cheshire Disability Services can do for some of PNG’s most disadvantaged with K100,000 will provide Papenfus with plenty of motivation during his swim, as well as his next 12 months of training.

To learn more about the English Channel Swim fundraiser and to donate please contact Neil Papenfus via traineeaccountant@pacifictowingmarineservices.com. Steamships will ensure that 100 percent of all money raised will be given to Cheshire Disability Services.

Cheshire Disability Services is a well-known, credible, and registered charitable organisation for persons with disabilities. Founded in 1965, Cheshire provides a range of important services that help people with disabilities enjoy their human rights and become full and active members of society.

For additional information, please contact: Neil Papenfus: (675) 7200 1107 | Linda Van Leeuwen: (61) 407994890