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A Rising Star

At St John’s we are always interested to hear the inspiring stories of the lives that our OJs go on to lead after leaving school and Rowena Cole, The Head, was recently delighted to meet with OJ Leah Chowdhry (South 2008-2010) to talk about her significant fundraising activity.

In July 2018, Leah became the first British Asian woman to swim the English Channel. This feat of endurance, which took 14 hours and 44 minutes and involved many challenges including being stung all over her body by jellyfish, raised over £150,000 for Cancer Research UK and projects in India focussed on educating young girls and ending child sex trafficking. Leah was also named Woman of the Year 2018 at the Asian Business Awards in recognition of both her charity work and business; she has a successful children’s event business, ‘Pop up, Party and Play’, which she established with the purpose of making childcare more accessible.   

Leah’s Channel swim was not her first foray into fundraising.  At the age of seven, she gave up fizzy drinks and sweets to raise money for blind children in India and, as a teenager, she developed her passion for charity work volunteering at a Sri Lankan orphanage. Then in 2015, Leah ran the marathon for Unicef and raised £11,000 . It was following this experience that she had the idea to swim the Channel as Leah explains: “I raised a lot of funds doing the marathon but what did I do to challenge stereotypes, raise awareness of issues?  In Asian Society there are not many swimmers, and I wanted to promote this to Asian women, as well as raising money for two important charities.”

This month, Leah attended a dinner at Buckingham Palace, following an invitation from HRH The Prince of Wales, where a project to empower women and girls across SE Asia was discussed.

Rowena Cole, The Head, comments: “When I heard of Leah’s recent achievements, I was keen to invite her back into School so that I could meet this impressive, dynamic young woman in person. She is passionate, committed and deeply invested in giving something back and making a difference - traits that we aim to instil in all our pupils. What Leah has accomplished already shows how much one individual can achieve and we will watch her undoubted continued success with interest."