On 26 June 2023, Simon John, from Thetford in Norfolk, set off to cycle from one great Marian shrine to another. The intention of his pilgrimage from Walsingham to Lourdes, was to raise awareness of the issues of trafficking and slavery, and raise funds for our own Caritas Bakhita House, and Anti-Slavery International.
Simon, 77, who has done other sponsored long-distance cycle rides, sent us regular messages including his reflections about the importance of fighting modern slavery. Donations were flowing in and he’d raised over £1,300. Then we heard bad news. Nine days into his pilgrimage, and 60% of the way to Lourdes Simon was sadly involved in an accident.
Simon explains everything that happened in this video:
Simon wrote to us soon after the event: “It was going well until a village outside Chartres, when I was knocked over by a bus. At first, the injuries seemed minor. By the time I reached Blois, (60 miles further on) by bike that evening, I could not walk. The next morning, a hospital confirmed there were no fractures but prescribed rest and medication.”
When we heard this news we agreed with Simon that it made sense for him to do some of the journey by train, and take time to recover before cycling the last stretch. However, Simon then discovered that the accident had caused a worse medical problem:
“I had been quietly developing a post-traumatic deep vein thrombosis, which dislodged early in the morning, just as I was preparing to leave a hotel and go to the station to go by train to Toulouse, and then cycle the rest of the way to Lourdes”.
The clot had moved to Simon’s lungs and he had a severe pulmonary embolism. After excellent care in a French hospital, Simon returned home where he is now recovering, and he says he feels much better.
By reaching Blois Simon completed about 60% of the pilgrimage. We congratulate Simon for his tremendous effort in cycling such a distance, and thank all those who sponsored him. Simon remains as committed as ever to the fight against modern slavery and is already beginning to wonder what he can do next to support Caritas Bakhita House!
As Simon says in his video, many of the products we buy here in the UK may well have been produced by people in conditions of slavery – this report from Walk Free includes figures on the types of products imported by G20 countries that are most at risk of being linked with slavery.
Donations for Caritas Bakhita House can be made here and if you have been particularly inspired by Simon’s story, please put Lourdes23 in the message box.
Anyone wishing to discuss a donation already made in sponsorship of Simon can email firstname.lastname@example.org.