Marathon Man: Kensington activist sets out on running challenge in support of Grenfell survivors

A Kensington community leader is attempting to run seven marathons in seven days to raise £50,000 for young people affected by the Grenfell disaster.

Kasim Ali, 36, will donate the money to the Baraka Community Association, who will use it to create a scholarship, offering grants to young people impacted by Grenfell.

His challenge, which will start on Saturday October 28, begins outside Old Trafford in Manchester and will finish with a four mile stretch from Grenfell Tower to UCL, where he will be joined by survivors of the tragedy.

Kasim believes that the fund will enable young people affected by the tragedy to undertake a similar journey, putting Grenfell behind them and accessing education.

He said: “Long term we want this to become an institution that helps people who have suffered because of the fire, so that this disaster does not damage their ability to learn.

“We don’t want anybody to be left behind because of this disaster. We want them to progress in life. Education is a pathway to prosperity”.

This is a cause close to Kasim’s heart.

On June 14, he witnessed the tragedy unfolding.

Kasim recalls sitting on the sofa, having just returned home late from his local mosque, when he heard a number of helicopters overhead.

Shortly after, his wife burst into the room and quickly ushered him towards their bedroom window, just 500 metres away from the burning tower.

Kasim immediately rushed to the scene, which was by then surrounded by the emergency services, to see if he could help the rescue effort in anyway.

He said: “It was an event that I would never want to experience again and that I would never want the people of North Kensington, Greater London or the whole of the UK to experience again.

“The human suffering on that night was unimaginable.”

Since that night, he has worked tirelessly with a number of community organisations to help the families who had been impacted by the disaster.

His efforts began pragmatically, helping charities distribute food and clothes, as well as offering shelter to those who had lost everything.

But with a disaster as profound as Grenfell, which is estimated to have taken the lives of 80 people, the psychological impact is far harder to address.

That is why Kasim has continued to work closely with the Baraka Community Association, a charity that supports young people within the Somali community.

With them, he has helped organise a number of activities for young people, many of whom lost family or friends in the fire.

These events provide a safe space for children to talk about their experience of the disaster and spend time with others who have similarly suffered.

Kasim continues to work with those affected by the tragedy and believes it is vital that people continue to support the rehabilitation of these young people.

He said: “Grenfell was not just a disaster for them but for the entire community.

“We try to tell them that there is a life after the fire and we are all feeling the effects.”

Kasim, who was born in Somalia, is no stranger to charitable work.

Whilst at UCL, where he is studying for a Global Prosperity MSc, he founded the Somali Society, who in turn created the Worldwide Somali Students and Professors Organisation (WSSP)

The WSSP self-funded charitable expeditions to Somalia, where they attempted to help create long-lasting agricultural and healthcare institutions.

As part of the project, Kasim found himself advising the President of Somalia on the possibility of collaboration with universities worldwide.

But Grenfell changed everything and prompted Kasim and the organisation to focus their energy on their local area.

It also gave him an insight into the broader social issues affecting the Kensington and Chelsea area.

As well as highlighting the invaluable work done by charities in the area, he hopes to raise awareness of the economic inequality that Grenfell brought to light.

He said: “The disaster has shown me that we need a community that feels the wealth that this area has. Prosperity should be felt by everybody.

“I would like to see a system that works for everybody.”

Kasim believes that the only way to heal after a disaster is as a community, where everybody can rely on one another for support.

And that is why he is running seven marathons- to bring everybody together to support those affected by Grenfell.

Donations can be made on Kasim’s fundraising page.

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