100-Year-Old Man Raises £186,000 to Fight COVID-19 by Walking Laps in His Garden During Ramadan
Dabirul Islam Choudhury was inspired by Colonel Tom to fundraise for the vulnerable.
In times of crisis, when nobody knows which way to turn, life can sometimes be as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.
That’s how 100-year-old war veteran Tom Moore, who was promoted from captain to colonel on his 100th birthday, raised £32.8 million for NHS charities by walking laps of his garden — and now, another elderly gentleman has decided to literally follow in his footsteps.
The only difference is that Dabirul Islam Choudhury — who is also 100 years old, from Bow in east London — has been walking around his backyard while fasting for Ramadan.
When Choudhury set out to walk 100 laps of his 80-metre community garden during lockdown on April 26, he aimed to raise £1,000 for vulnerable people disproportionately affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. But within eight hours, he had already smashed that target.
Now 26 days on, 9,450 supporters have donated more than £186,000 to his Just Giving page, 186 times his initial target — and the donation numbers are rising all the time.
"We should help each other," Choudhury told BBC London. "This is why I wish to salute Tom!"
This is Dabirul Islam Choudhury.— Muhammad Lila (@MuhammadLila) May 6, 2020
He's 100 years old.
Just like Captain Tom Moore, he's raising money for coronavirus relief by walking laps in his garden.
What's remarkable isn't that he's already raised £70,000.
It's that he's done it while fasting during #Ramadanpic.twitter.com/Frahnjk4cA
Choudhury’s work is far from over — he plans to continue his walks until the end of Ramadan on May 23, a spiritual month in the Islamic calendar observed by prayer, community, and fasting between dawn and sunset every day.
According to Channel 4 News, he had walked 450 laps by May 8 and was still going strong. At the moment he was interviewed, he had been walking despite not having eaten for 17 hours.
"It is not tiring because it is my habit to help people and help mankind," the centenarian told Channel 4 News.
All money raised will go to the Ramadan Family Commitment (RFC), an organisation set up by British-Bangladeshi television station Channel S to distribute funding to leading international partner organisations working to support victims of COVID-19 in the UK, Bangladesh, and elsewhere.
"When we started, we started at a small pace, but he’s been increasing his number of laps he’s doing," his son Atique Choudhury told BBC London. "The problem we have is that we have to try and stop him because he wants to carry on."
"In places like Bangladesh, which is where this charity is going to as well, if people aren’t working for a week or two weeks ... they’re starving," he added.
His son revealed that his father has been fighting for social justice all his life, raising money for the Liberation of Bangladesh and to tackle the famine in 1974 that was estimated to have killed 1.5 million people.
Choudhury is a celebrated poet in his community — he moved from what is now an independent Bangladesh to London in 1957 to study English literature, according to Metro, and has since published more than 1,000 poems. Born on Jan. 1, 1920, he used his education to become a community leader in St Albans.
Tower Hamlets — the borough where Choudhury lives — has the largest British-Bangladeshi population in England, making up almost a third of the 317,705 people that live there. But it also has the highest child poverty rate in the UK — 31% of kids are part of families living below the poverty line, double the national average — and the highest pensioner poverty rates in England, with half of the residents over 60 below the poverty line, which is triple the national average.
The funds Choudhury is still raising could help support his community, especially given reports that the lockdown has sparked a hunger crisis among those already in the most vulnerable positions in society.
"As an individual, he is very bright and very bubbly, full of life," said RFC project leader Farhan Musad Khan. "We like to invite people who have got a legacy, who have contributed a lot, who are inspiring, and Mr. Dabirul Choudhury is one of the highest respected individuals in our community."