South Asia

Canadian teen launches barefoot fundraising challenge

Bilaal Rajan in Malawi (photo by UNICEF)
Image caption Bilaal Rajan has raised more than five million dollars for various causes

A young teenager from Canada has launched a campaign to go barefoot to raise money for children.

Bilaal Rajan, 13, from Toronto is urging everyone, young and old, to go about their daily lives without wearing shoes for at least an hour each day.

He is asking participants to have friends and family sponsor them and donate the proceeds to Unicef Canada.

Speaking to BBC World Service, he said he wanted to make people understand the need of those less fortunate.

"You are really able to see how these kids have to walk to school, if they have the opportunity," he said.

"I want others to realise I guess how fortunate we are to have clean water to drink, to have shoes in our feet, where so many others have to live life without shoes."

Early start

Bilaal was only four-years-old when he launched his first fundraising drive after hearing about the death of a priest in the 2001 earthquake in India's Gujarat state.

"I immediately thought of my dad dying and it really wasn't pleasant," said Bilaal whose father is also a priest from India.

"I started selling these small oranges door to door in my neighbourhood and I raised about $330."

His initial success inspired him to be involved with more projects, for the victims of the Indian Ocean tsunami to people made homeless in Haiti's earthquake.

"As one person you can make a difference, but as a group you can change the world," he said.

In 2005 Bilaal was chosen as an official Youth Ambassador for Unicef Canada - the main focus of his fundraising drives.

In his latest campaign - the Barefoot Challenge - he's asking participants to have friends, family and neighbours sponsor them and donate the proceeds to Unicef Canada.

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