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  Daniel Francis a British volunteer of the International Charity Organization VSO wants to help


 

Daniel Francis a British volunteer of the International Charity Organization VSO, is planning a biking expedition, Everest trek, and to compete in a Marathon to raise awareness of Autism. After a close encounter with death where he was left powerless and afraid, Francis decided to make a positive response of his own experience.  The following is his story.

April 1st 2000 was a day that would change my life forever. As an IT engineer I was called out to an evening call in a South West Office location. I finished the job and as I left the server room I was confronted with two men with boiler suits, balaclavas and handguns. I was told to get on the floor and was thrown to the floor before I was able to grasp what was happening. As my hands were being tied up as was asked by two of the men how many people were upstairs, I replied eight or nine, he replied that I didn’t sound very sure and pointed a gun in my face with a silencer on it. At that point I realized that this was not an April fool’s joke.

I was lifted up and was lead towards the toilet, upon opening one of the cubicles I saw a security guard with his head over the toilet itself, I thought he had been shot and I thought I was going to be executed. Fortunately he was still alive, but he had been injured by a pistol whip to the back of his head. I was left with the guard and two other members of staff. The event lasted approximately one hour as the criminals escaped when they heard police sirens.

When I returned home it took some time to comprehend what had happened to me. Aged 22 there were many things that I still wanted to do and it all could have been taken away from me. The following day I watched the news and saw people being displaced by conflict or suffering in hunger. I understood the sense of powerlessness the people caught up in these situations felt, because the night before I was totally powerless to change my own situation, but even then I still had a roof over my head and food in my stomach unlike the majority of people on the news. Aldous Huxley once said, “Experience is not what happens to a man, it is what a man does with what happens to him”.

As a result I decided to make a positive response to my own experience. I went back to college and in 2004 after 5 years of study achieved a Master’s Degree in International Relations. The next step was to leave my job as a project manager for a consultancy firm and dive into the development world.

On the London underground there was an advert for VSO (Voluntary Services Overseas). VSO is the world’s largest international development charity that uses professional and youth volunteers to work overseas for up to two years. I applied and was accepted in December 2004. By January I had found a placement in India called Action for Autism and was accepted, I would be flying out in March 2005 to help the organization move into a new building and expand/improve their services.

Five months on and I am living in New Delhi India and will be until 2007. One of the immediate things that struck me about VSO is it makes skills available to developing countries at a fraction of the cost. My previous firms cost for me just for one day would be the same cost for me at Action for Autism for one year, without VSO this would have not been possible.

Action for Autism (www.autism-india.org) is a charity that works with people with autism, it is estimated that 1 in 250 children born have autism. That means four million people in India alone could be suffering from autism. Unfortunately due to the lack knowledge about Autism it is often misdiagnosed, which causes further damage. The organization has moved into a new building and much money is needed not only for developing new services, but for projects such as working with doctors to ensure they diagnose autism correctly.

I made a decision to try and raise additional money for the organization to help such projects. Being close to the Himalayas Mount Everest called, but I was aware that many people have climbed Everest and I get an allowance of less than £100 as a volunteer to survive so I could not afford to summit Everest. So to have a unique approach I will cycle from New Delhi to Katmandu, which is 1000 KMs. I will then climb to the highest peak I can afford on Mount Everest followed by a 42km marathon run on Mount Everest from base camp.

With the money I hope to be able to sponsor projects to help raise awareness and support families and those with Autism. In the meanwhile I will worry about the training to get in shape for this ambitious attempt.

Please see the justgiving website:

http://www.justgiving.com/Everest-Triathlon

 

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