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Video: Clergy man David Jenkins putting on his running shoes in a bid to raise money and awareness of autism

10:13 22 March 2014

Archdeacon David Jenkins. David is running a succession of races in aid of autism.

Archdeacon David Jenkins. David is running a succession of races in aid of autism.

In Britain around 2.8 million people’s lives are touched by autism every single day and it is estimated that 700,000 people in the UK have Autism.

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Autism is probably more common than you might think.

You can’t always tell if someone is on the autism spectrum and the nature of the condition means it is hard to generalise about people’s experiences.

For David Jenkins and his wife Sarah autism is part of their family life.

David said: “Our son Ben was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome when he was very young. When he was born he was very ill and it was picked up early on by the doctors. He is a warm and endearing child. He is very friendly. But he does get anxious in social settings and he struggles to articulate his feelings which can be frustrating for him and, at times, that frustration can impact on family life.”

Archdeacon David Jenkins. David is running a succession of races in aid of autismArchdeacon David Jenkins. David is running a succession of races in aid of autism

Ben also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

David said his family is not alone in Suffolk and they make use of the services and facilities provided by Autism Suffolk.

In his professional life David is one of Suffolk’s most senior priests and he is the current Archdeacon of Sudbury – a position that dates back centuries.

David, formally known as The Venerable Dr David Jenkins, describes the role as a trouble shooting regional manager.

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He said: “There are two archdeacons in the diocese and I look after the western half of the diocese. I am responsible for the pastoral care of the clergy and churchwardens and also the discipline of the clergy. I am also looking after church buildings and structures. I guess I am best described as the right hand man of the bishop in this half of the diocese.”

Based at his home in Great Whelnetham, David spends much of his time visiting clergy, attending meetings with the bishop and others as well as doing administration.

He said: “No two days are the same. I look after 100 clergy in nine deaneries. It is a real people-based job and a bit like being a regional manager. I also get called in where there might be difficulties in a parish so it is troubleshooting as well.”

Originally from Northern Ireland, David’s career has taken him all over the UK including Blackpool, Preston and Carlisle. He moved to take up the post in Suffolk in 2010.

He said: “I love living in Suffolk and I enjoy the people here. It is a joy and a challenge.”

In his spare time David is a keen runner and a member of Bury Pacers.

He said: “I have been running since I was about 12. I first started running to avoid rugby and found I was quite good at it.”

Competing at interprovincial level – similar to county level – in Northern Ireland, David also ran for Cambridge University.

He said: “I don’t race anymore but I do like to run to keep fit. I am most at peace when I am running and there is an element of prayer to my running. Running is when I feel most close to God.”

David said he runs six miles every day with favourite venues including Nowton Park and Ickworth.

He also runs with a small team of church workers.

David added: “Suffolk has the benefit of being fairly flat.”

This year David is running to raise money for Autism Suffolk.

He said: “I am running ten 10 kilometre races throughout 2014. Every year we go to the Isle of Mull for a holiday and last year I took part in the Mull 10 kilometre race. There were a group of runners running ten 10kl races for a charity and that is where I got the idea from.”

The Archdeacon is hoping to raise between three and five thousand pounds for the organisation.

He said: “I also want to raise awareness about Autism and Aspergers. Sometimes Aspergers can be written off as a naughty child but it is a recognised condition that families and people have to live with. I want to try to make people think about the issue and engage with people not to feel any stigma about it.”

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