Local Hero : Daniel Cowan

WHEN DANIEL COWAN, aged 19, left home in Wangaratta for the first time, to travel on his own and find himself, he headed to the Philippines to volunteer for three months at a small outreach program in the slums of Mandaue city on the island of Cebu.

A week after he arrived, a 7.2 earthquake caused widespread damage and many deaths. Two weeks later on 8 November 2013, Typhoon Yolanda, the biggest storm in the history of the Philippines, hit the island. In the aftermath, millions of Filipinos were homeless and more than six thousand were dead.

Daniel immersed himself in packing, delivering and distributing tons of emergency aid resources to more than 20,000 people across fifteen different devastated islands.

“I witnessed whole cities reduced to rubble, dead littering the streets. Villages and islands were turned upside down. We moved through communist rebel territory, battled storms, death and destruction. I witnessed Humanity in its rawest forms, the good and the bad. It changed my life.”

Eight months later, aged 20, scarred and confused, he came home and was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He battled suicidal thoughts, horrible flashbacks, nightmares, mood changes and insomnia. Nine months later, he had saved enough money to travel to India solo to find peace on a pilgrimage. After six months trekking and hitchhiking across the country, he went on to Turkey, witnessed the riots, terrorist threats and declaration of war, and went on to Bulgaria, hitchhiking with no money and no phone, busking and enjoying his love of people and music. It was an intense, challenging and rewarding time.

“My travels changed the way I looked at and felt about the world. I wanted to focus my passions into a career where every day was a challenge and a reward, having a positive influence in others’ lives. Now, at Uni, I hope to branch into Education and Wilderness Therapy to empower youth to achieve their fullest potential, give them confidence and love. I see education as a tool to break the chain of poverty, neglect and self doubt.”

Daniel on the mountain close up

Daniel on mountain

Daniel with colourful crowd

Daniel with aid team

Click here to watch Daniel’s YouTube documentary about his Philippines experience.