A FORMER St Laurence pupil has started the first leg of his Dance America challenge to raise funds for Anti-Slavery International.

Benjamin Hammond began his fundraising challenge on March 28 and intends to dance the 4,000 miles from Los Angeles to New York. So far, he has raised more than £3,000 through sponsorship.

The first leg will follow the line of the famous Route 66 from Santa Monica to Chicago, as far as Oklahoma. The second leg will take him from Oklahoma to Chicago and the third leg from Chicago to New York.

He said: “I'm raising funds for Anti-Slavery International because to me modern-day slavery - such as human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage, child slavery or descent-based slavery - is one of the biggest evils that exists today.

“I believe everyone should have the right to live a life free from servitude, to determine their own future and to create and follow their own dreams, just as I am lucky enough to be able to do.”

Mr Hammond was awarded a British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours for his services to dance and to charity. Now living in London, he runs the Post-graduate Certification of Education courses at the Institute of Education.

After graduating from university as a teacher, he travelled to Burma, where he taught in refugee camps.

Four years ago, the flamboyant fundraiser danced his way from John O’Groats to Land’s End in a bright neon yellow and green tutu to raise awareness of the oppression in Burma.

In 2011, Mr Hammond became the first person to dance the entire 26-mile length of the London Marathon, taking eight hours and 50 minutes to complete the course, and finishing 34,692nd. He also raised more than £4,858 for LearnBurma.

His challenges have helped raise more than £100,000 for various charities and organisations and have included dancing non-stop for five and a half days for the World’s Longest Dance.

He’s now raising funds for Anti-Slavery International, the world’s oldest human rights organisation, which was founded in 1839 by British slavery abolitionists.

Mr Hammond added: “Unlike my previous challenges, every step will be done under my own steam – pulling and pushing everything I need to stay alive, healthy and on track through the great heat and wilderness of the USA.”