Bristol man runs 200 half-marathons for Syrian refugees
World Vision ambassador Jerome Flynn says he is ‘changed forever’ after hearing heart-rending stories from war-scarred children in South Sudan.
Jerome met traumatised children last month on a fact-finding trip organised by international charity World Vision. South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, gaining independence in 2011. The East African country has been convulsed by a five-year long civil war which has killed at least 400,000 people. Over 19,000 children have been conscripted into various armed groups.
“Children told me about unimaginable horrors they had seen and experienced,” Jerome says. “Some children were kidnapped by armed groups and forced to fight and kill and watch other children get killed for not keeping up. Others fled torched homes and villages and sought refuge in camps for displaced people, with little food and no education. Many lost mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters and were forced to make choices no child should have to make, just to survive.
"I met families torn apart because of the conflict and talked to parents who had sons and daughters snatched from them,” he continued. At times I found their stories of what they had to endure almost too painful to bear.
“Yet I also saw hope in a country ripped apart by war. Dedicated World Vision aid workers are helping desperate families stitch their lives together amid the chaos. I was blown away by the resilience of the children, humbled by their spirit, and inspired by their determination to find happiness.
“I saw how war costs children their innocence but does not always destroy their childhoods. The bravery of the children I met will stay with me forever.”
Full-blown conflict is likely to flare up again in South Sudan unless a national army of government and rebel forces is formed by May 12. More children and young people could then be forced into the bush to take up arms or flee the fighting.
Jerome says: “South Sudan’s latest peace deal is on a short fuse and the situation is desperate. Help is needed urgently to protect children from further violence. Sadly, there are thousands of children across the world who need support right now. Please give generously to help them.”
Jerome’s trip forms part of World Vision’s Made for More appeal for funds to protect the world’s most vulnerable children.
World Vision ambassador, Graham Grout, successfully completes super-human challenge of 200 half marathons in just over 200 days.
Graham started the colossal fundraising challenge - ‘Running from Aleppo’ - following a trip to Northern Greece where he volunteered in the Nea Kavala refugee camp.
Graham said, “During my trip to Greece in January I met hundreds of Syrian children and their families who were forced to flee their homes.
When I got back to Bristol I wanted to do something to raise awareness of this humanitarian crisis. I decided to raise money for two amazing charities that support refugees: World Vision and Help Refugees. That’s how the idea for Running from Aleppo was born.
- Graham Grout, World Vision ambassador
The immense 2, 601 mile run represents the distance from Aleppo (Syria) to the city of Bristol.
“I’m no Eddie Izzard,” said Grout. “I was more of a weekend runner when I started this challenge. I didn’t tell many people at first because I wasn’t sure I could even do it.
"I had three friends with me on the last run which felt special. I can’t believe I’ve actually done it. It’s still sinking in.”
Charlotte Tipping, from World Vision UK’s fundraising team said, “Graham’s achievement is incredible. I remember him calling me one cold morning in February to ask for a logo. That was 200 half marathons ago! Congratulations, and thank you for raising over £1,200 to help Syrian refugees.”
Graham had to work part-time in order to complete the challenge. His weekly schedule included ice baths and regular visits to the physiotherapist. In fact, the only thing that interfered with his training schedule was a biopsy early this year – thankfully it was benign.
Grout clocked-up the miles in and around Bristol, as well as participating in organized events around the country.
To support Running From Aleppo please visit: www.justgiving.com/companyteams/RunningFromAleppo