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 not long after, another elderly gentleman decided to literally follow in his footsteps.
And after Sir Tom was knighted for his work, Dabirul Islam Choudhury — who is also 100 years old, from Bow in east London — has been awarded with an OBE in the Queen's birthday honours for 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.
Before the end of May, he had raised more than £420,000, all during Ramadan, a spiritual month in the Islamic calendar observed by prayer, community, and fasting between dawn and sunset every day.
"We should help each other," Choudhury told BBC London. "This is why I wish to salute Tom!"
Over the course of the month, he walked 970 laps of his garden.
“I feel proud they have honoured me for the efforts I have done,” Choudhury said in response to the OBE. “I thank everybody from the bottom of my heart.”
Choudhury's son, Atique, added that he was "very proud" of his father: ”Where we are from in Bangladesh, we don't get much recognition for the work that we do, so this is for all the people who contributed towards my dad's success and all the victims of COVID-19."
He added: “He said his work hasn't finished and he's going to carry on working and raising money for people affected by COVID-19.”
Atique also 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.
Nearly £116,000 of the fundraising total was given to the NHS, with everything else split between 30 charities in 52 countries through the Ramadan Family Commitment (RFC) COVID-19 crisis initiative, run by Channel S, a British-Bangladeshi television station.
"Dabirul Islam Choudhury's walk is inspiring," Rachel Blake, deputy mayor of Tower Hamlets, told Global Citizen. "His commitment to supporting people through the pandemic crisis shows a great community spirit."
"Ramadan is a time for reflection and being with friends and family," she added. "This Ramadan is different, with people finding new ways to connect."
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.
"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."
Congratulations to Dabirul Islam Choudhury, from Bow, east London for being recognised in the Queen's Birthday Honours List with an #OBE.— Urban Muslimz (@UrbanMuslimz) October 10, 2020
He was recognised for raising more than £420,000 for coronavirus relief pic.twitter.com/u5g3TvQPWG