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Retired Stroud Green journalist takes on walking challenge to fundraise for refugees

PUBLISHED: 14:29 29 September 2020 | UPDATED: 18:09 29 September 2020

Michael Durham, 68, from Stroud Green. Picture: Michael Durham

Michael Durham, 68, from Stroud Green. Picture: Michael Durham

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A retired journalist from north London has raised almost £1,000 for the British Red Cross’ Miles for Refugees appeal.

Michael Durham, 68, from Stroud Green, is raising money for the initiative, which helps to resettle refugees fleeing war and injustice into life in Britain.

The September challenge asks participants to walk, run, cycle or swim different imaginary routes, such as Paris to London.

Michael is walking 76 miles for his imaginary Damascus to Beirut stretch. He aims to complete the challenge on Wednesday, September 30.

READ MORE: ‘Refugees’ lives matter’: Stand Up to Racism campaign plans Finsbury Park protest

Michael’s daughter Lucy, 29, a former Highgate Wood student, is also taking part.

He said: “My daughter told me she was taking part in this challenge and I thought ‘that’s a good idea, why don’t I do that?’ It’s become a bit of a family thing.”

He added: “To my astonishment, I’ve raised the money. The Red Cross initially gave me a target of £150. Within a few days I’d raised that.

“My new target is £1,000 and I’ve raised £916. I have 16 miles to go. Perhaps I’ll raise £2,000.”

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Michael faced trolling online: “There was a strong implication of why should we have any feeling for someone from another country in difficulty.

“We’re all part of the same human family.

“I find it disturbing when I see reports of people who have travelled thousands of miles from war zones and are treated as second class citizens when they arrive here.

“We’re under an obligation to help refugees under international treaties.”

During the challenge, he has combined dog walks in Finsbury Park with longer walks in Eastbourne and Kent along the North Downs Way.

“Every step I’ve taken has added to the commitment. I’m heartened to find this well of philanthropy among my friends and the public.”

Michael’s wife Bobbie, a retired doctor, volunteers in Hampstead, Finchley and Highgate for Refugees at Home, a UK charity connecting refugees with community members who can temporarily house them.

He says: “My wife’s mother was a refugee from Austria in 1938, one of the last out of Vienna into London, and her grandparents on the other side were refugees from pogroms in Russia and Belarus in the early 1900s.

“I’m not a hero, it’s the people giving the money who are the heroes.”

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