16th December 2015, 7.00pm BBC2
The Ambassador Patron of Pilgrim Bandits Charity, Ben Parkinson MBE who is one of the most seriously injured soldiers to survive the Afghan conflict, is the main subject of an extraordinary BBC 2 documentary. The hour long film shows his remarkable progress in recovery and the help given to him by a small specialist military charity Pilgrim Bandits.
During the programme, due to be broadcast on the Wednesday 16th December at 7.00pm on BBC 2, Ben accompanied by other injured soldiers from the UK and Canada kayak Canada’s mighty Yukon river – a gruelling expedition hosted and paid for by the New Milton, Hants based charity.
The 497 mile kayaking journey finds Ben completing 250 miles of it, along with his co-adventurers and a volunteer support crew from the Pilgrim Bandits. Added to this team were corporate participants from the financial firm EY via its own charitable cause the EY Foundation. Each having to contend with freezing temperatures, bears, wolves and rapids, while living off reduced rations and having to kayak 40 miles a day. Those taking part could only eat what they could carry in their kayaks and had to camp alongside the river every night in sub-zero temperatures.
In Canada, Ben and his fellow team mates are joined by BBC One Show wildlife reporter Mike Dilger, who also takes part in this gruelling challenge. But it soon becomes obvious that there are difficulties Ben’s canoe in a specially adapted boat, designed to help support his broken back. But the pain he suffers from spending long hours in the boat gets worse as they travel further north so the Direction Staff take the decision to transfer him to a normal double kayak.
Pilgrim Bandits Expedition leader Mike who organised the challenge and accompanied Ben on the trip comments: “When we first met Ben he was in an electric wheelchair. He could hardly talk, but Ben’s a real special bloke you could see that there was still something there wanting to get out, all we have done is provide the opportunities for that to happen.”
Unlike other charities Pilgrim Bandits also provides the funding for injured personnel to take a carer on expeditions. Before Pilgrim Bandits, carer funding was not available from military-focused charities – carers were excluded from these events (because of cost) and as a result many seriously injured lads were also left out. In the early days of Ben’s recovery he struggled to find a military charity who would offer him more than care in a day centre. Mike explains “We have blazed something of a trail by taking lads who need carers on extreme expeditions – it’s happening more and more now which is how it should be, but when we first started with Ben (7 years ago Skiing in Canada) nobody would touch him”
When questioned about his motivation, Ben simply replies, “If someone says to you ‘you’ll never walk or talk’, would you say ‘I’ll take it!”
Ben and the other amputees the Charity works with share their inspirational stories with schools, care homes and young offenders’ institutes. Mike explains “These lads want to help young people from underprivileged backgrounds to realise that absolutely anything is possible. We work with The Prince’s Trust to arrange presentations in all types of settings to do just that. When they understand what Ben and the other lads have achieved post injury, who can fail to be inspired.”
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