Togetherness. Acceptance. Adventure. There are many words that can be used to describe the most recent Oceans of Hope (OoH) Challenge but one of the participants – former EMSP Interim CEO Bettina Hausmann – focuses on these three. They sum up a great story which you can read in this second blog of the series on the OOH initiative. Disclaimer: EMSP is in no way responsible for the longing which some of the photos and videos included in this article may inflict on users.
It’s been more than four weeks since my return from the Oceans of Hope adventure in Croatia. I wrote a first blog just before joining the sailing trip, anticipating that this would be a beautiful and important experience. Today, I can confirm first-hand how powerful Oceans of Hope really is.
We all first met in the Marina of Trogir, near Split, all with a smile on our faces: more than 60 people living with MS, together with our pro bono skippers, ready to crew a flotilla of 10 boats.
Many of my colleagues had traveled in from different parts of Europe. A few particularly determined ones even joined from as far as the US, Australia and New Zealand. Many of us met for the first time in Trogir. For others, it was a long-awaited reunion after prior Oceans of Hope trips.
1000 faces of MS
MS is sometimes described as the ‘condition with the 1000 faces’. The team coming together in the Marina seemed to confirm that: some people walked with difficulty, others speeded in their scooters. Quite some others did not show any external signs of the condition.
‘Do you still work?’
We are diverse as a group, and we have considerable issues in common. One of them is coming to terms with a condition for which there is, to-date, no cure. Another is living with the related challenges. To give just one example, when we said hello to each other, one of the first questions that popped up was ‘do you still work?’ In what other group of relatively young people would this be an issue?
‘MS is the normality’
In the very beginning, Oceans of Hope was quite a bit about our health. Once we really disembarked it was simply about us, and about sailing. Robert Munns, the initiator and coordinator of the Croatia trip summed it up nicely: ‘Oceans of Hope is the place where MS is the normality’.
What a privilege: We swam in the spring-cold Adriatic Sea, learned how to become crew, forged friendships, and got a little crazy.
Youtube video below: A Day in the life of Oceans of Hope Challenge. Courtesy of skipper Bertram Christensen and Oceans of Hope Challenge.
A big thank you to the Marina of Sibenik for the great and generous party you threw for us!
The difference that made the difference
Enjoying life on board, in the sea and in picturesque bays might not be so different from other sailing trips. The difference that made a difference was that we all went out of our comfort zones … without even noticing it.
What a journey we’ve been on! Some of the scooters got dismantled and stored in different places on the boat on day one, and never taken out again. The increasing ease with which people crossed those little bridges to the boats was incredible: every day a little more. On the last day, one of us living with secondary progressive MS, danced on deck jokingly singing: ‘I’m cured, I’m cured’.
A transformation journey
MS sailing has a transformational power. At the same time, this was Oceans of Hope, not Lourdes. MS remains a serious condition, and now that we are back home, challenges creep back in for many.
Fortunately, Oceans of Hope has changed something substantial in all of us. Dave Roberts summed it up nicely: ‘Anything is possible with MS, you just need the opportunity. Thanks Oceans of Hope.’
Here are some multimedia impressions from the crew of TwoTess. There are many other powerful stories traveling the internet … we were a flotilla of 10 boats!
Youtube video below: No hill was too steep and no challenge too big for lovely Varsha Tailor. She reiterated on Facebook: ‘I almost forgot MS was in my life and just enjoyed life, and will continue to grab at moments like these’.
Youtube video below: Following surgeries, I am not allowed to use my pectoral muscles any longer. I found much of my strength back, using other muscles instead. And I’ll keep learning how to sail!
Youtube video below: In this video, skipper Colin Weston talks taking on a crew of people with MS. A big thank you to Colin and all skippers for spending precious time of their annual leaves to join us. And for being great!
Youtube video below: OoH organiser Robert Munns summing up the challenge. Robert lives with MS himself.
Youtube video below: A project to watch: Oceans of Hope founding father Mikkel Anthonisen about the doctor’s perspective, the creation of an Oceans of Hope Sailing Centre and plans to sail with MSers to the Arctic.
For more information and more videos, please visit the Oceans of Hope site, including the coverage of Oceans of Hope Challenge.