Splashing for cash as marathon runner holds Sunderland sea dip ahead of desert challenge

From running across the Sahara to dashing into the North Sea - a Sunderland man will be braving both extremes to raise vital funds for refugees.

Friday, 15th February 2019, 10:28 am
Updated Friday, 15th February 2019, 10:32 am
Michael Ward, pictured on Seaham's beach, is preparing to travel to Algeria to live in a refugee camp for a week and run a marathon in aid of a children's education charity.

Michael Ward is in training for the Marathon Des Sables in Morocco in April and came across the Sahara Marathon as he prepared to sign up for the event.

Next week, he will fly out to Algeria to join in the fundraiser, which will see him live with a refugee Sahrawi family for a week as he learns about their struggles.

Tindouf, in the South West of the country, has five camps which are housing 173,600 refugees after the Sahrawi people became displaced by war following the annexation of their homeland in 1975.

The people - also known as Sahrawi - are still waiting for a resolution as the third generation lives in limbo, with humanitarian projects running to help educate and support families.

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Michael is raising funds for Stave House in the Sahara project, backed by Sandblast Arts, which offers music and English classes for children at a primary school in one of the smallest camps, with hopes to expand in to two more camps.

He aims to raise £3,000 to pledge towards its £40,000 target for this year, with an event at Roker Beach this Sunday to help boost his appeal.

The Saharawi Splash Fundraiser, a sponsored swim in the sea, is being held at noon, with fellow members of the Fausto Bathing Club to pull on fancy dress and invited to take along instruments for a sponsored dip and sing song in the sea.

Michael, who works for Grundfos and lives in Silksworth, said: “It came about because I’m training for the Marathon Des Sables and I found out about this Sahara Marathon, so I thought I would do it for charity, as this is money for a good cause.

“I’m doing this because I believe these children deserve a childhood and to be given a chance in life.
“People have been really supportive, especially from Fausto with this fundraising event at the weekend.

“I’ve already raised about £700 for the fund, which is great.”

He added his thanks to fellow bather Joanne Buntin for her help in bringing together plans for the splash.

Members of the group will be out with collection buckets during the event, with supporters welcome to cheer on the swimmers.

On New Year’s Day, the club joined staff from Sunderland Royal Hospital to help its woman’s health team raise funds for a new treatment suite.

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Donations to his Just Giving page can be made via https://bit.ly/2TMitRl.