Even as signs of spring begin to emerge, sea and river swimming are far from most people’s minds are Connie Metcalfe.
The 20-year-old law and politics student is more than halfway through a cold water immersion challenge – 30 dips in 30 days – to raise money for the RuralChange Fund.
“It’s just getting the word out about that and raising funds for it,” Miss Metcalfe said.
“So, it’s just like 30 days and you started off with 30 seconds and then it builds up to five minutes in the water. And that can be like a cold shower, or in the river – or any cold water.”
After choosing to leave her Dunedin flat near the beach and spend lockdown on her parents’ farm, Miss Metcalfe said the challenge was getting easier. She had begun with cold showers and sea swims, but now had the Waitaki River at her disposal, and farm water troughs to mix it up a bit.
“It was pretty hard to start with, but it’s getting a lot better, especially if you go for a run or something before, it definitely makes it easier. I’m getting used to it, definitely.”
The RuralChange Fund is an offshoot of Will to Live, a charitable trust set up by Elle Perriam in 2018 following the death of her boyfriend Will Gregory.
Will to Live promotes mental health awareness and provides one-on-one support, free education and wellbeing tools to rural communities, where it is harder to access mental health resources.
RuralChange, which launched this month, is to pay for private therapists for New Zealand farmers. Its creation was motivated by the estimated eight-week-long waiting list to see a counsellor or psychologist in the public health system.
Miss Metcalfe, who attended Duntroon School and St Kevin’s College, is now in her third year at Otago University. Although she had no personal connection to the cause, she had an appreciation for its necessity, she said.
“I just think it’s really important … I’ve grown up in a rural setting, and I’ve got quite a lot of young friends that are farming, and I guess, just the reality,” she said.
“You know the idea of isolating in Level 4 lockdown is, like, pretty foreign for most New Zealanders, but actually for quite a lot of farmers that’s their day-to-day life anyway.
“Also, I think it’s just important to do things like this to start changing the culture, so that people do get help when they need it.”
Being at home with her parents, Richard and Jane, and her younger brother and sister helps keep her motivated, as does posting regular updates on her Instagram page @getcoldwithcon.
“That’s probably part of the reason why I did the Instagram page, maybe so I’ve got to think of something a bit funny or do something a bit different.”
Her Instagram page also has a link to her Givealittle page which, by Wednesday, had raised close to $1000.
There are 16 others on the Will to Live Givealittle page taking part in the challenge.
Miss Metcalfe described herself as “a little bit mad growing up”, so the cold water swims were not completely foreign to her, but she was appreciating the positive benefits.
“It’s kind of, not a thrill, but it definitely makes you feel quite alert after, and then like with your body heating up. But it’s not always that enjoyable.”
She played down her role in the fundraiser and said she was just trying to spread the word.
hard work, that’s already been done. It’s just like advocating for Elle and for what she’s worked for, I guess, if that makes sense.”
Her challenge is due to finish on September 11.
Anyone wanting to support Miss Metcalfe and the RuralChange Fund can visit givealittle.co.nz/fundraiser/thirty-days-of-getting-chilly-with-Con