First person to cycle Cuba launches dyspraxia campaign
Published: 17 Mar 2016
On June 27, 2015, Ben Graham Jones of Chippenham became the first person in the world to cycle the entire length of the Caribbean’s largest island.
Dyspraxic people often struggle with cycling, so Ben decided to take on the challenge to establish himself as a role model for others. His travels were enabled through a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship.
This week, he has released his report Dyspraxia: A Call to Action, outlining the steps government and society needs to take for dyspraxic people.
"Britain can unlock the potential of 3,000,000 dyspraxic people by reversing their social and economic exclusion," argues Ben.
“Dyspraxia is a condition affecting physical coordination and movement. I wanted to show that with the right combination of determination and resilience, this challenge can be overcome.
“I remember everyone else in my primary school undertaking their ‘cycling proficiency test’. Having never shown any aptitude for cycling, I sat at the side.”
“At university I was diagnosed with dyspraxia, but when I Googled ‘dyspraxic role models’ I saw there were not many. Even though I had broken my wrist coming off a bike at university, I became determined to fill the vacuum of dyspraxic role models by overcoming a challenge we face in spectacular fashion. Every worthy cause needs pioneers, and I want to inspire other people - dyspraxic or not - to tackle their own personal difficulties”.
After 36 days of cycling, Ben became the first person to cycle the entire length of the island.
“One and a half thousand kilometres and a similar number of mosquito bites later, I felt the most intense elation as the lighthouse at Cuba’s westernmost tip came into view. Over two days of cycling, I had passed only three small villages”.
Ben’s epic journey took him past Cuban military bases at Guantanamo, into a Cuban hospital for treatment of a cut on his leg, and into the homes and lives of ordinary people across the nation.
“My message to people who struggle with any personal difficulty is that with the right combination of determination and resilience, even the most monolithic of obstacles can usually be overcome. Let us never use our personal challenges as an excuse for failure, but always as a motivation for success”.
“I am determined that my story will inspire people to challenge their own difficulties”.
Ben’s first job was working in a factory, but he later went on to become the first from his family to go to university, graduating from Cambridge last year and subsequently working for US President Jimmy Carter on the response to Ebola and on the OSCE election observation mission to Kazakhstan. He recently worked as a Cabinet Office Policy Advisor.
“Every great cause needs pioneers. Fifty years ago, few knew much about dyslexia, but now many employers and educators have progressive attitudes towards the condition. I hope to pave the way for a comparable understanding of dyspraxia. My journey across Cuba has ended, but it is only now that the real journey of spreading awareness begins”.
“I ask champions in media everywhere to take this opportunity to ensure that when dyspraxic people in future Google ‘dyspraxic role models’, they see that it is possible to overcome the difficulties we face. What is needed is advocates in the media to act as loudspeakers to ensure that the success of my journey heard everywhere, and people become aware of dyspraxia as a result.”
Ben can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (0) 7721 507608. He hopes to use every avenue possible to publicise the fact that dyspraxia need never be a barrier to achievement.
Read Ben’s Fellowship report.