The last year did not have to be like it was. Operation Ark was meant to be a glimmer of hope from the chaos and turmoil of the western worlds complete and utter failure of the Afghan people.
Surely we should have been celebrating the successful evacuation of 67 Afghan nationals; including pregnant women and extremely young children who now had the opportunity for new lives in the United Kingdom free from oppression, along with the 94 dogs and 68 cats of the Nowzad clinic?
But the press, social media and elements of the United Kingdom’s government (both sitting and opposition) never saw it that way and came after the charity and especially me.
They chased me to the edge of the chasm and watched me fall in as lie after lie was published to deflect from the governments utter atrocious handling of the withdrawal.
Not once did anyone consider the negative affect it would have on me personally to be falsely accused of putting pets before people.
The death threats, the abuse, the donors who demanded their donations back and the loss of friends who believed my values were all wrong. Even some Royal Marines both serving and former, openly criticised and slated my actions calling me a coward and a disgrace to the Corps.
I even had an email discussion with a journalist (loose description) who admitted he was lying to publish a story as it was ‘political’.
Government departments, including a Foreign Affairs Select Committee hearing, even published completely unverified ‘facts’ by a ‘whistle-blower’, kept the pressure upon us and was made substantially worse when the charity commission, declared an investigation into Operation Ark expenditure that had no basis nor made any sense and actually last 10 long months.
Donors cancelled their monthly support as newspapers continued to print their false narratives.
It was day after day of just stress that seemed to be out of control.
Finally, the day came when we were completely cleared of any wrong doing whatsoever with Operation Ark but did one newspaper print that the investigation had completely cleared us?
Not one did.
And sadly, no media outlet has ever published a good news story about the Nowzad staff’s children evacuated through Operation Ark and now embracing a new future of free education who are loving every minute of it.
Still to this day we hear ‘pets over people’..
Night after night zoom call meetings with trustees and staff as we fought to put out the never ending fire of another news story about ‘Pen Farthing’ took up every moment of the last 14 months. It never seemed to end.
The darkness descended and it was just too much. I gave up on Nowzad. I gave up on many things.
And in June of this year (10 months after Operation Ark), just as I thought I was climbing back out of that hole, I had my heart ripped out by the one person I needed the most. 5 months on and I am still none the wiser really and whilst it still hurts like hell, it’s time for me to finally move on.
Friends new and old rallied round me and made the difference. Not sure I can thank them enough as they listened without judgement to my rambling self-pity and then said enough is enough and dragged me kicking and screaming back to a future of possibilities.
I went climbing.
I trained like a demon in the gym.
I had some me time.
I am not intending this to be a self-help post for folks struggling as I did. I am no good at that. This is just me getting if off my chest once and for all. But if you are struggling with depression or loss then please pick up the phone and talk to some-one.
It made the difference for me.
Took me a while to admit I wasn’t the tough guy I thought I was.
So now I find myself gradually going back to what I know, for which I am slowly beginning to have a passion for again.
I honestly thought my time with Nowzad was at an end. I let a lot of the charity day to day business slide.
But the letters of encouragement and supporting emails have helped me realise that Operation Ark, even with the unbelievable stress from the fall out and the personal loss, was definitely worth doing.
Thank you for everyone who has reached out. I have read every email and letter even if I have not had time to reply. Thank you.
The UK government and the press tried to beat me and indeed came very close but ultimately failed.
I still can’t believe some of the headlines that were published. And no I have never met Boris Johnson nor do I have or have ever had, his phone number.
Over a year later and I am getting my mojo back. And now with the support of some amazing Nowzad staff and volunteers bringing the charity back on track.
2023 will all be about Nowzad and our animal welfare work that you support.
Thank you to all who reached out. Love you all – thank you.