Going the distance to help refugees

“I want to raise as much money as I can to help secure their safety.” 

More stories

© UK for UNHCR/Ronu Creative

UK for UNHCR supporter James Overton never shies away from physically pushing himself. His latest challenge is no exception. In August 2021, James is determined to swim from Land’s End to the Isles of Scilly, a whopping 30 miles (about 8 miles longer than the English Channel). And he’s doing this all in the name of helping refugees.  

When describing the initial push to dedicate himself to such a physical feat, James recounts, “First and foremost, the newspapers were flooded with the body of a washed up 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, a Kurdish child refugee and it spurred me on to do something.” 

“I chose that stretch of water because of how local it is to me. The Isles of Scilly mean a lot to my wife and me.

It was a tragic moment that shone a spotlight on the terrible choices facing families fleeing conflict. Today, families are still being forced to make desperate journeys in the search for safety. UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and Olympian swimmer Yusra Mardini, an inspiration for James, remembers the hellish journey she made when fleeing Syria in 2015, when she was just 17. Yusra remembers, “We all knew that many people had died making the journey ahead. We were all equally afraid. But we were all equally desperate to escape the violence that lay behind us.”  


James’s mission will take place in a location that means a lot to him. He states, “I chose that stretch of water because of how local it is to me. The Isles of Scilly mean a lot to my wife and me. So not only would it be a hard challenge but would also be quite a sentimental one as well.” 

To build up to this monumental endeavour, James has run and swam the length of the River Foweywhich is local to him and his wife. This winter, he intends to follow the River Severn: from source to sea 

UK for UNHCR supporter, ultra-endurance swimmer and the reason we may try wild swimming in the future: James Overton is a man of many talents. To learn more about this amazing challenge and show James some support, visit his JustGiving page.  

Share This