Most of us understand how awful the refugee crisis is and have the urge to offer support, but find we are stuck in busy lives with commitments all over the place and are unable or unsure of how to take action.
In October I was moved enough by this feeling to go and learn more and offer what I could in terms of help in the Calais refugee camp. Although I learnt a huge amount about the conditions of the camp and individual's traumas, I felt bewildered and lost and spent most of the 10 days that I was there, feeling like I was merely witnessing the situation rather than doing anything much to make it better.
When I came back to the UK I realised that this is experience was probably not uncommon, and although I do not think it was harmful for me to go there as I was able to learn and show some kind of solidarity, I realised that a much more effective way to make a difference would be to funnel everyone's efforts in to supporting an organisation that is experienced, has already proved itself to be good at supporting refugees, and simply needs funding to continue.
To do this, I've put together a fundraiser-challenge to enable and inspire people to take action to support the refugee crisis. The plan is to cycle from London to Athens and we are inviting people to join for sections along the way, with every person getting themselves sponsored for the challenge they're undertaking.
Each week of the journey will be made up of a small group of superb humans (10-12 people in total) that fancy the kind of adventure that is well thought through, but not scripted. We have researched and found a route from London to Athens that will take six weeks in total and is divided into handy one week chunks, so you can join for any leg you want. Every week will be filled with six full days of cycling, camping along the way, either out in the middle of nature, nestled in an organic farm, or couch-surfing. And each weekend, we've booked an apartment in or near a city so everyone can celebrate what their heroic limbs have achieved, before the next leg of the tour begins.
This is a really small project looking to raise a lot of money. We're aiming to collectively fundraise £20,000 for Help Refugees, a charity who support the most vulnerable people arriving in Europe. The money is specifically for one of their outreach projects in Greece, lead by the Bristol Skipchen, a grassroots, proactive organisation who have already made a huge impact on the island of Lesvos. In the six months that they've been there, they've built a kitchen from scratch and provided free food for 1000s of refugees each day. The money fundraised for them will enable them to expand what they've already created by building and running another kitchen in Athens where there is a big demand for them and they know they can run their project long-term.
If you have been looking for a way to take action to support refugees, in a way that will definitely bring about a useful outcome to the individuals, then signing up for a sweaty, thigh-challenging fundraiser where you'll meet a bunch of like-minded minds, could be exactly the right thing to do with your Spring. We've still got space for people to join the cycle between London - Paris, and Rome - Athens. If you want to apply or find out more, go to www.thighsofsteel.com