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
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
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
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:
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