Haris makes a big splash for Gaza

Fundraiser: Haris Patel is swimming 21 miles to raise money for Gaza
Fundraiser: Haris Patel is swimming 21 miles to raise money for Gaza
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Kind-hearted schoolboy Haris Ali is making a real splash with his bid to help youngsters in the conflict-ravaged Middle East.

The nine-year-old, from Fulwood, Preston, was so upset by the scenes of devastation he saw on the television he wanted to do something to help – so he is spending his summer holidays swimming the 21 miles equivalent to the width of the English Channel.

Already the pint-sized water rocket has notched up nine miles in the pool and raised more than £8,300.

He has been visiting his local pool five times a week, with the intention of covering a mile – 64 lengths – each time and has so far surpassed all expectations.

Mum Munira Patel said: “He is a fantastic little swimmer. He has been in the pool since he was about six months old, then had lessons and got into serious swimming and now go to Preston Swim Club.

“We have talked, as a family, about doing something for charity for about a year and then recently Haris was hearing what was going on (in Gaza) and has watched the news with his dad a couple of times and was really upset and that’s how it all started.

“He is just a normal nine-year-old boy who likes to play football, rugby and swim. He is sporty but is such a petite boy and is really throwing himself into this.”

Haris, a pupil at St Pius X Prep School in Fulwood, said: “Recently, I have watched some of the news about Palestine.

“I only know a little bit of what is happening to the children of Palestine and it upsets me to know children my own age and younger are going through all this pain.

“I feel I would somehow like to reach out to these innocent children of Gaza so, I have decided to swim the equivalent of the English Channel to raise money for the children of Palestine.”

The family set up Facebook and Just Giving pages on social media and have been overwhelmed by response from family, friends and strangers.

Munira added: “A local nursery raised more than £1,000 and asked Haris to go into collect it and he told me that he was overwhelmed by the reaction from people.

With help from mum and dad, Bilal, he has a gruelling programme and he has set himself a target of raising £20,000.

Within the first 24 hours, he had raised £1,000.

After one session, his legs were hurting, so he told his mum: “I have a plan – one lap of breast stroke, one of front crawl and one of back stroke, so instead of thinking 64 lengths, I will think just over 21 sets of front, back and breast.”

His dad goes to the pool with him most days but Munira said his little sisters, Fatima, six, and three-year-old Aamina have also been joining in the fun.

Haris’ money will be donated via the Ummah Welfare Trust, which has a base in Deepdale, which has no administration costs.

Munira said organisers are hoping to identify a specific project for Haris.

You can donate on www.justgiving.com/swim4palestine