We’ve shone the spotlight on the Help 4 Forgotten Allies previously, in a bid to bring their plight to a more mainstream level.
And thanks to Sally Steen’s superb work, we now have a better understanding of these forgotten veterans.
Now, journalist Mark Fenn, who is based in Singapore, is hitting the road and undertaking the city’s marathon in an effort to raise money for the cause and provide them with the financial assistance they need to buy the basic necessities we take for granted.
We spoke to Mark to get a better insight into why is undertaking this challenge, and if you or anyone else can help donate money, please click here.
Here’s our interview with him…
Mark: I signed up a few months ago, but put it on the backburner for a while as I was busy with other things, not the least of which was my wedding in March.
Mark: I started running seriously towards the end of last year, in an effort to lose weight, and have completed four half-marathons since then. But this is my first full marathon, and because of various other commitments I don’t think I’ve trained as much as I should have done. So in that respect, I’m not really looking forward to it!
Celebzter: You are raising money for the Help 4 Forgotten Allies, why did you decide this was the cause you wanted to help?
Mark: I’m a journalist and I wrote a story about the Karen veterans a couple of years ago, when I was living in Bangkok. I met some of them in refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border, and was deeply moved by what they had been through, and impressed by their resilience. Through writing that story I met Sally Steen, the founder of Help 4 Forgotten Allies, and she has kept me updated since then. I often find myself thinking about the veterans, and am even considering writing a book about World War II Burma in the near future. But at this stage I am conducting only very preliminary research, so I’m not sure if my idea is feasible yet.
Celebzter: How much money have you raised so far?
Mark: Not enough, as I have been ridiculously disorganised and only told people that I am doing this a few days ago.
Mark: On my Charity Choice page I set 500 pounds as my target. But really my goal is to raise as much as possible.
Mark: It will help the veterans buy essentials such as food and medicine, as well as ‘luxuries’ like soap and coffee. It allows them to live out their twilight years with a little more comfort and dignity. I think the point is to remind these old guys and their widows that they have not been forgotten about, that there are people who remember them and the enormous sacrifices they have made.
Mark: That’s up to Sally to decide. I’m not involved in the distribution at all. After talking to Sally, I think some will go to the veterans in the refugee camps and some to a group of veterans in Burma, who I met on a recent trip to Yangon. They are saving up to buy a taxi, which can then be rented out to provide them with a regular income.
Mark: Sponsor me! Or contact Sally to ask about ways to help support the veterans. Help 4 Forgotten Allies comes under the British registered charity Projects to Support Refugees from Burma. Click here for their website.
And here are some general questions about Mark, so you can get a better idea of the person he is (and hopefully, support his mission).
Celebzter: Your background….you’re British, but how did you end up living in Singapore?
Mark: I moved to Bangkok to work for a newspaper there in 2005. When I was made redundant, I felt I needed a change so I applied for – and got – a job on a newspaper here in Singapore. I’ve been here for two years now.
Mark: A marathon is 26 miles, or 42km. The hardest thing has simply been putting in the hours to train. I work in the evenings, which means I can only train in the daytime when it is generally very hot. Plus I got married a couple of months ago, and have had various other commitments, so I haven’t been able to train as much as I would have liked. For this reason, my goal is simply to finish the run, and not in any particular time.
Mark: Saturday, May 26.
Photo credit of Dwe Maung, one of the Karen veterans supported by Help 4 Forgotten Allies, pictured above : Ben Owen-Browne