Alnwick mum sets sights on Mount Kilimanjaro after record-breaking English Channel swim

An Alnwick woman who became the first person with a stoma to swim the English Channel has set herself another big challenge.
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Gill Castle is to lead an expedition up Africa's highest peak, Kilimanjaro, to raise awareness of the impact of childbirth injuries.

“The idea had been in my head for quite a while, even when I was doing all the swim training,” Gill admitted.

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She will be joined by up to 20 women, many with stomas, on the trek to the 5,895m high summit in October 2025.

Gill Castle.Gill Castle.
Gill Castle.

"Everyone coming has a stoma, or a childbirth injury, or is a passionate supporter of the charity,” Gill revealed.

"There are a few from the Alnwick area too – Charlotte, Rachel, Liz and Kelly.

"I wanted to give other people the opportunity to achieve something special after a birth trauma.”

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Gill suffered extensive injuries when her son Sam was born in 2011 and needed surgery to have a stoma which allows bodily fluid to pass into a pouch or ostomy bag on the outside of the body.

On September 12 2023, Gill became the first ostomate to ever swim the English Channel, completing the crossing from Dover to Tardinghen, west of Calais, in just under 14 hours.

Over £36,000 was raised for Chameleon Buddies, the charity she founded in 2022 to support women in Northumberland and Kenya who are struggling with adapting to life after childbirth or stoma surgery.

The charity has set up support groups and takes stoma equipment to Kenya for those who have little or no access to ostomy supplies.

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"Normally when you do fundraising, you don't really get to see in actual life the difference it makes to people so I feel very privileged that I do get to see it all the way through,” said Gill previously.

The expedition participants are funding the expedition themselves, but hope to raise up to £50,000.

The money will be used to help build a dedicated stoma and continence wing in a hospital at Eldoret, Kenya.

“The expedition is not just about raising money though,” said Gill. “It's about showing women they are so much more than what happened to them.

“It’ll be an amazing trip and we can’t wait. I know it will be tough – but not nearly as hard as that swim!”

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