What a man! Wyn James is making the most of lockdown. Stuck in his Singapore hotel, he has raised almost £13,000 for Cardiff-based children’s cancer charity LATCH, by running 42km in his hotel rooms!
We spoke to Wyn to find out more about his experience and about the great work LATCH are doing across Wales.
Hey Wyn! Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your background?
My name is Wyn James, I’m originally from West Wales, Newcastle Emlyn way. I’ve lived off and on in Asia since the early nineties and currently I live in Singapore. I was a banker for years, I worked for JP Morgan, RBC, people like that and now I’ve got a data science business which works with banks and corporates. It’s called Tradesun and it’s based out of Singapore and San Diego.
Fantastic! So what’s the story of you being stuck in your hotel?
I left just before lockdown in mid March to go back and spend time with the family in Cardiff. And then of course lock down happened and I wasn’t allowed back into Singapore. After several attempts, I was eventually allowed to come back, but because I was coming from the UK, I had to do two weeks quarantine in a hotel.
So I arrived back into the airport, and was met by people in their hazard suits, and then they put me in a sealed van and took me to a hotel. For the first week I was in the Sofitel, and it was it was just horrendous. It was a completely sealed tiny room. All air conditioned, no balcony, nothing, food was given to you three times a day with a knock on the door and left outside. It was just bizarre.
And that’s when I thought, well, I was going to do a bit of exercise anyway, and my Mrs had said ‘Oh, you should try that Joe Wicks stuff’, and I thought no I’m not doing that. So instead I worked out that the track from one corner around the bed to the other corner of the door was seven and a half meters. So I thought, OK, if I do that there and back it’s 15, if I do that 200 times it’s 3k in a day. So if I do that for 14 days it’s 42k, that’s a marathon.
And then I thought, right, in order to make it interesting I’m gonna raise some money. Because at least if it’s fun and I’m doing it for charity then I’m more likely to stay disciplined and do it, and that’s what I did.
So there’s a charity in Cardiff called LATCH Children’s Cancer Charity, all community-funded. I know them reasonably well because some friends of ours have got little boy with cancer, and they’ve been fantastic for them as a family. So I thought I’ll raise money for them.
Their catchment area is huge across Wales. They do all sorts of stuff, they give emotional support, social support, and financial support. They’ve got eight little bedrooms in the hospital in the Cardiff University of Wales hospital, so families can stay close to the kids, and then they’ve also got two Caravans down in Porthcawl somewhere, Trecco Bay, where people can go off and have a little break with the kids. I mean, it’s just wonderful. It’s a really nice charity. Originally I was going to raise £500 but of course, it’s now £13,000, which is amazing.
And it’s all because every day, as you probably seen in the videos, I decided after a while that I’m going to dress up using what I had lying around. So I was taking stuff off the walls to make outfits. A mate of mine sent an M&S grocery bag in, one of those Union Jack bags, so I made that into a Spice Girl dress and put my orange T-shirt on my head.
Some of the outfits were quite innovative. I did wonder where you’ve got the the outfits from!
A lot of them I just made from what was lying round, and then of course a couple of mates started dropping stuff in. It was actually quite good fun. Of course it all went a bit viral on Facebook. So then every time I was posting a video I was getting five or six thousand people looking at it. So the money was coming in from all over. It seemed to strike a chord, because there’s hundreds, if not thousands of people doing quarantine. And it can be a pretty depressing experience actually. I just tried to turn something which is pretty rubbish into something quite positive. So it’s been really fantastic, and it helped keep me sane, gave me a bit of discipline, and the 14 days flew then. Because half your day you’re either on conference calls or you’re trying to decide what your next outfit is!
“I’m delighted at where we’ve got so far, but if somebody could stick another fiver or something in it’d be fantastic.”
What’s the next target? Have you capped it at £13k or are you aiming for more?
I don’t know really. I did my 14 days and then I was getting loads and loads of followers and people saying ‘keep going, keep going’ but I’ve actually got a day job as well. Originally my target was £500 – it wasn’t supposed to go this mad. Obviously I would love to raise more, because it’s such a lovely charity, I can’t stress that enough, and children’s cancer is the most disgusting vile disease on this bloody planet and there’s a fair few contenders for that title.
I’m delighted at where we’ve got so far, but if somebody could stick another fiver or something in it’d be fantastic.
Even my kids mates were sending me money. It’s just been really nice. I did BBC Radio Wales last week, and I’m doing it in Welsh tomorrow on Radio Cymru, so that will be quite fun as well.
How was the support in Singapore from the local community and the Welsh expat community?
I mean the expat community have been fantastic. I’ve got loads of mates here – old rugby mates of mine. They were all great – sending bottles of wine and clothes and all sorts of stuff in, and then the Regent Hotel where spent the second week were fantastic. Because they basically gave me a guard of honour to leave with AC/DC playing on the way out with a manager at the end and he gave me a plaque which I thought was really lovely.
Everybody in the expat community in particular seem very aware of what I was doing. So that’s been great. The St David’s Society in Singapore have been fab. They gave me the huge Welsh flag, which I used on the last day, so that was lovely. A guy called Jeremy Gage has been really good. He kept posting it out onto the St David’s site. So all the Welsh community were sending me well wishes.
“Everybody in the expat community in particular seem very aware of what I was doing. So that’s been great. The St David’s Society in Singapore have been fab. They gave me the huge Welsh flag, which I used on the last day, so that was lovely.”
I think I think what you’ve done is fantastic. It’s a great story. Is there anything we can do to help you?
I think I’m on something ridiculous now like £12,920 or something, just short of £13,000. It would be quite nice to get over £13,000, then happy days. If it gets in front of people and they look at it and they laugh, which a lot of people seem to have done, and they feel like contributing a little bit then fantastic. Because as I said, it goes into something which I think is really special.
Wyn James fundraising for LATCH Children’s Cancer Charity
Wyns Singaporean Qurantinathon: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/a-james8