Winners of North Pole race pledge funds to UN refugee agency

9 May 2007

Two intrepid young Britons have won an Arctic sprint to the magnetic North Pole which they say should boost their chances of raising $495,000 for the United Nations refugee agency.

Two intrepid young Britons have won an Arctic sprint to the magnetic North Pole which they say should boost their chances of raising $495,000 for the United Nations refugee agency.

Co-organizer Jock Wishart confirmed on Tuesday that former UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) staffer Jake Morland and teacher James Turner had reached the Pole last Wednesday and edged out five other teams to win the 2007 Polar Race.

The two, racing as Team Refuge, trudged across 560 kilometres of snow and ice in just over two weeks, almost seven hours ahead of second-placed Polar Horizon and five days faster than the final team, which included a 62-year-old woman and her son.

“When I think of all of the hard assignments I've had with UNHCR, nothing can compare to the desolation or difficulty of surviving in the Canadian Arctic,” Mr. Morland, who has served in East Timor, Iraq, Sri Lanka and the Sudan, told the agency in a telephone interview. “The long process of recuperation is beginning,” he added.

Arch Insurance (Europe) donated $80,000 to Team Refuge to cover the costs of the race, which means that all additional funds raised will go straight to UNHCR. The public will be able to continue donating to the team through the rest of this year.

Mr. Morland, who is continuing to raise funds, said the win should help add to the pot. “It should make it a lot easier to approach people, capture their imagination and get a donation from them.”

The polar veteran has said he wants to earmark $495,000 for a special trust fund to cover urgent medical evacuations for refugee children and a quick access fund to enable field officers to bypass some of the regular paperwork which can slow things down.

UNHCR has an historic attachment to the Arctic. Nobel Peace laureate and Arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen was the world's first High Commissioner for Refugees, serving in this position for the League of Nations, precursor of the United Nations. Each year UNHCR awards a prize in his name to a person or group for outstanding services in supporting refugee causes.

 

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