Heroic: 73-yr-old swims across Berbice River to raise funds for children’s education

Ashraf Ali also known as the “Conqueror”
Ashraf Ali also known as the “Conqueror”

A 73-year-old man on Monday swam across the Berbice River. The swim was to raise funds for free classes for children in East Canje, Berbice.

Ashraf Ali called “Conqueror”, a pastor, had previously swum the Demerara and Essequibo Rivers. Monday’s adventure is the third time he swam the Berbice River.

Ali, who grew up in East Canje, but now resides in the US, has been trying to assist children to receive a better education and as such free lessons are being offered to students of that community.

Recently, computers were given to several students in East Canje to assist them with homework.

Monday’s swim took him just under three hours. He was hoping to complete it in less than half that time. He went out in the river alone, without any lifeguard.

After two hours, the Coast Guard was called in after he was not seen.

Many worried supporters had their eyes affixed on the river when suddenly, Ali appeared walking from the road.

He said he did not expect the river to be that rough, noting that the last time he swam the Berbice River, it took him 45 minutes.

“Then it was easy but this time I was not given the correct information about the tide. So it took me a longer time to reach across. I had to fight the waves in order to get across and then I walked in the mud and raised my hands but it was so far nobody could have seen me and then I set out to come back and the waves were rougher and higher,” Ali said after completing the feat.

Ashraf Ali at the beginning of his adventure on Monday

He left from the New Amsterdam Ferry Stelling and went to the Blairmont Stelling hoping to return to the point of origin.

“I was in line with the New Amsterdam Stelling coming back but then the current washed me that side and I ended up under the Berbice River Bridge.” That location was about one and a half miles from where the former teacher had intended to hit the shore in New Amsterdam.

Police officers at the Berbice Bridge checkpoint saw Ali as he went ashore and were able to arrange a ride to get him to the New Amsterdam Ferry Stelling where supporters were waiting.

“I know I had people worried. I am sorry for that but I was aiming to do this without any safety. I am sorry that they got worried but the same thing happened when I did the Demerara River back and forth. After I passed halfway they couldn’t see me and then they were on the road but there were bushes between the river and the road, so they couldn’t see me for four hours and then I ended up seven miles away.”

The former Berbice High School student told this publication he will do the swim again if required as part of a project for his old school.

In September 2016, Ali swam the Essequibo River and at that time had said he had now conquered – having already swum the Berbice and Demerara Rivers twice – the Corentyne and Canje Rivers along with a swim for hours into the Atlantic.

He said he wants to swim in the Pacific Ocean in California where he is hoping to get the opportunity to swim alongside a shark while wearing no protective gear.



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