John, aged 77, was making the pilgrimage to raise funds for two charities working to tackle modern slavery: Bakhita House and Anti-slavery International. He began on June 26 and planned to get to Lourdes on July 14.
Unfortunately, when Simon was over the Channel and cycling in France, near the village of Chartres, on July 4, he was knocked over by a bus.
Reporting from his hospital bed, Simon said: “At first, the injuries seemed minor. By the time I reached Blois (60 miles further on) by bike, I could not walk. At first, I began to recover, and then things went from bad to worse because I was quietly developing a blood clot in the leg , which dislodged 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 dislodged and became a severe pulmonary embolism in the lungs. I am now being treated in hospital in Blois and am advised not to cycle or even lift anything in the immediate future. This is a little frustrating, but at the same time I have had two lucky escapes because either the bus or the PE could’ve killed me.”
By reaching Blois, Simon had completed about 60% of the pilgrimage which was to raise money to help tackle modern slavery. The crime of slavery, or human trafficking, has been described by Pope Francis as an “a scourge upon the body of Christ”. In the last few years, the number of people who are enslaved by others has risen by a shocking 25% to 49.6 million people. That’s 1 in every 150 people and one quarter of these souls are children and over two thirds are women and girls.
Before he started the ride, Simon said: “I believe that everyone deserves to live a life free from exploitation. I am making this ride unsupported and I am truly concerned by this challenge. I hope I can make it. I hope and pray for people’s freedom and restoration.”
“It isn’t easy to stop exploitation and secure freedom for a person enduring modern slavery, but Anti-Slavery International do just that. Throughout their long history they’ve built the expertise, partnerships and knowledge needed to help prevent slavery in its many forms – including child slavery, forced labour and human trafficking.”
“Caritas Bakhita House (operated by the Diocese of Westminster) provides women escaping the horrors of human trafficking and modern slavery with safety and support, so they can begin to recover from the trauma they have endured. Since opening in 2015, Bakhita House has been home to more than 170 women (plus 13 new born babies) who have been able to access a variety of forms of therapy and training. Bakhita House aims to empower women to rediscover their inherent dignity and walk in it.”
You can sponsor Simon’s pilgrimage ride at https://www.justgiving.com/page/simon-john-1685616829573 and at https://www.caritaswestminster.org.uk/bakhita-house.php
Pictured above is Simon with his trusty bike, before the accident.