We know we’re hardcore in Burnley but running barefoot in the snow!? That’s exactly what Burnley resident and artist Foysol Alkaatib did to raise money for charity. But his story doesn’t start or finish there.
burnley.social came away from this interview completely inspired that not only do we have a renowned artist living in our town who creates pieces for some of the biggest stars on the planet, but he’s also raised an impressive £1.5 million for charity in the space of just two years.
Foysol attended the then Barden High School, before going on to Burnley College Sixth Form, where he studied chemistry, physics, and maths. Despite choosing these subjects, Foysol’s heart was always with art. Travelling around the Middle East provided Foysol with an interest in Islamic art and Arabic calligraphy and it went from there.
“I decided to just go for it, so set up my art business, Alkaatib, as soon as I left sixth form. It was the best decision I could have ever made. I now have clients in 35 countries, and I make bespoke pieces for people like [boxer] Amir Khan and [footballers] Mohamed Salah and Sadio Mané.
“The Hilton Hotel has recently placed an order with me and I’m really grateful to do my passion of art as my job. It’s afforded me the financial freedom to raise money for charity and travel around the world giving out aid.”
£1.5m and counting
So, how did Foysol start fundraising and why?
“I have around one million followers combined across my various social media platforms (@Alkaatib) and I thought to myself there must be a way I can utilise this following to do good. Initially, I’d heard about a bread factory in Yemen that needed help to feed those going hungry due to the emergency there. In one day alone, we raised £25,000. That’s where it took off,” Foysol told us.
He then set himself the challenge of running 5k every day for five months, come rain or shine.
“I ran barefoot in the snow at one point as I’d seen how people fleeing their homes were walking huge distances often barefoot over all terrains and in all weathers. Me doing that caught a lot of attention online and in the end that challenge raised £250,000. I was broken by the end of it, I had to have ice baths every day and my feet were ruined,” he explained.
Foysol came across a Muslim charity called the Global Relief Trust, and after doing his research to check they aligned with his values and goals, he decided to volunteer with them to deliver aid where needed. His first trip was to refugee camps in Lebanon, but Foysol says wherever there is an emergency, he will go.
In fact, we were lucky to pin him down for our interview, as he’d just come back from Turkey, where he built tents and gave out food. He was heading back a few days after our call, before giving out aid in Lebanon, Pakistan and Kashmir.
It was this selflessness that caught the attention of the Burnley community and at the inaugural Above and Beyond Awards at the beginning of March, Foysol was awarded the Fundraiser of the Year Award. In fact, Foysol couldn’t collect it as he was in Turkey giving out earthquake aid, which truly embodies why he was the worthy winner.
So, what’s next?
Clearly Foysol isn’t going to stop his fundraising and aid visits any time soon, although he might avoid running for donations in the near future! (“I’m never running 5k ever again!”)
But what does he have up his sleeve next?
“For the last two years, it’s been full on with fundraising, but I think after these next aid trips I need to take some time to get back to doing some art – I have quite a few orders I actually need to fulfil! I would also like to work with schools teaching Islamic art and Arabic calligraphy. St Peter’s have invited me to do a workshop, which I’m going to do when I’m back, and I’d love to support more schools in Burnley in this way.
“In the past, I’ve been paid to hold workshops in Australia, the USA and Barbados, which has been incredible, but I’d like to recreate this locally too. It’s why winning the Above and Beyond Award meant so much. It was a total surprise, and it means so much more being recognised locally than it does in other countries,” he added.
We truly hope schools in Burnley take up Foysol on his offer and we wish him all the best with his growing business and fundraising efforts and for making the time to speak to us in between his aid visits.