Saturday, 17 May 2008

Barefoot walk to London

Dear friends,

It is now over seven months since I shaved my head and began walking barefoot in the wake of the brutal suppression of Burma’s saffron revolution.

It has been a truly amazing and enriching experience for me, from the first few months when everybody wanted to know what was happening and I received daily messages from well wishers, to now, when for me and almost everybody else, it has taken on a sense of normality.

As the weather improves walking barefoot is much easier but I have been wondering about the validity of the action. The winter weather drew attention to my bare feet, prompting questions from strangers that often led to amazing conversations, thus achieving my aim of highlighting the situation in Burma. In addition I found that the experience of walking daily on frozen ground connected me to the suffering of the people whose plight had motivated me. This led to many reflections on suffering and became an important part of the journey I was on. Without the cold weather these things are diminished.

Of course, the situation in Burma is more desperate than ever in the wake of cyclone Nargis. The military Junta is once again demonstrating almost total disregard for the wellbeing of the people. By refusing to allow aid organisations to operate within the country a natural disaster is turning into a humanitarian catastrophe.

Once again I find myself struggling for an appropriate response. It seems wrong that as my life is returning to normal the lives of those I’m attempting to stand beside have been thrown into further turmoil. For some time now I have been considering a pilgrimage that will allow me to reflect on the events of the past months and the current situation has strengthened my resolve for this.

It is my intention to walk to London during the school summer holiday. I hope that whatever attention my walk receives will allow me to continue raising awareness of the plight of the Burmese people. Specifically I’d like to draw attention to the conditions endured by the Internally Displaced People (IDPs). Even before the cyclone there were over one million IDPs forced from their homes by the regime’s army. They live without security, with limited food, and little or no access to education or health services. It is possible that cyclone Nargis has displaced a further 1.5 million people.

Partners Relief and Development are one of the many NGOs working within Burma to bring relief to the IDPs. They help to establish temporary camps where the IDPs can access medical care and education. They have a campaign called “5 Alive” that aims to raise money so that a family of five can be provided with the 5 things most crucial to survival as an IDP. These are the five things that I will carry with me as I walk and they are:

Rice and Salt
A cooking pot
A lighter
A machete (which I will substitute for my penknife)
A tarpaulin for making a roof in the jungle

One of the most positive elements of my experience has been the extent to which the vast majority of people I’ve met have appreciated my act of solidarity. It has been warming to encounter so many caring and compassionate individuals especially as I was acting out of despair about the cruelty in the world. It is my hope that my walk will allow me to continue to experience and to highlight the kindness of strangers. I do not intend to carry money on my journey. I am confident that I can survive on what I carry with me but it is my conviction that this will not be necessary.

As I make my way down the country I hope to visit as many religious & spiritual sites & active Burma campaign groups as time and leg power allow, seeking nourishment through learning about the perspectives and actions of others. I hope also to collect signatures on a petition (exact wording still to be decided) that will eventually be delivered to the government on my arrival in London. There will also be an online version in the near future.

At the present time my route is not fixed although I am sure that I will head down the east coast. If anyone has suggestions of places / people that I should visit I’d gladly receive them and this may well help to clarify my route.

Once I’ve begun my journey on the 25th of June there will be a number of ways that you can support me. Should anyone like to join me for a part of the journey I will be glad of the company. Offers of a night’s accommodation or a lunch not based on rice will also be gratefully received.

Alternatively you could make an online donation (I do not wish to handle money) to the Burma Educational Scholarship Trust. I will be starting a Justgiving page shortly and will keep you updated.

I hope to arrive in London around the 8th of August – the twentieth anniversary of the 1988 massacre in Burma that ended the last uprising against the Junta.

Thank you for reading and in anticipation of your support,

Much Love,



Anonymous said...

i higly admire you... God Bless You..

Bay Dah said...

You'll Never Walk Alone. Thanks you so much