AS someone who has realised a career simply by pursuing a passion designed to help others, Luke Addison is not just a shining example, he is a positively glowing one.
Hailing from Woking, the 22-year-old President of the Winchester University Rotaract Club is an aspiring entrepreneur made good in the Naked Leader mould. Simply, he is going out and making his life happen.
Last year he helped the homeless of Hampshire by organising donations for and delivering survival packs, taking an inspirational lead in tackling the problem head on with unerring tenacity.
It is the city of Winchester which is benefiting from his endeavours. his drive and enthusiasm earning him a career path at the university after he had gained a 2:1 there in Drama and English.
It was an invitation to be a mentor at a PeaceJam (www.peacejam.org.co.uk) conference in Monaco that transformed his life, though.
At that time he said: ”I had never heard of PeaceJam before and had no idea what I was to experience when I went along. As I expected, the conference was full of some of the most amazing, enthusiastic and dedicated people I have ever met.
‘I watched young people become engaged and inspired in national issues and got to meet and hear an incredible speech from Desmond Tutu.’
Such was Luke’s inner determination to host a Peacejam conference in Winchester – with the aim of helping to educate and inspire young people in international fellowship, world peace and honest leadership – he achieved his goal last month.
And with the backing and support of local schools/ colleges and prominent Winchester folk, not to mention the university which has backed him all the way, the first of what will be many weekend-long events was a huge success.
So much so that 1997 Nobel Peace Prize winner and guest of honour Jody Williams described it as “off the charts” – not a bad endorsement from the American activist and Human Rights champion, who was recognised for her work towards banning landmines. She delivered an incredible speech and hosted a question-and-answer session discussing both international issues and those a little closer to home.
‘It is with immeasurable pride and a smile rivalling that of a Cheshire cat’s, that I can announce that the University of Winchester successfully hosted its first ever PeaceJam conference,’ enthused Luke, sounding like a feline who not only got the cream but discovered a crafty access route into the local dairy.
‘The conference itself began with a public talk on the Friday evening which was very well attended by many members of the public, Winchester Rotary Club and the Mayor of Winchester. And the Vice-Chancellor of the University Joy Carter was also there to greet Jody.
‘Following the talk, the weekend kicked off with students, teachers and secondary school pupils from across Europe meeting on campus for a full schedule of activities, workshops and presentations over the whole weekend directed towards conflict resolution, peace and friendship.
‘It was overwhelming to see the support from local organisations, groups and young people from around Winchester.
‘Around 20 young people took on the roles of mentors for the pupils participating, these were young people who got in contact with me over the last months to register interest and attend training sessions detailing how to work with the pupils and also how to make the most out of the conference for themselves.
‘Alongside the mentors, the support offered from PeaceJam itself and also from the university staff was incredible. Mark Owen, the head of the Centre for Peace and Reconciliation at the University offered his full support from the beginning acting as the university’s representative. Caroline Millman acted as the Rotary representative and took me to several club meetings to deliver presentations as well as manning stalls and spreading the word herself. Sally Milne, who acted as the main PeaceJam UK liaison was also there making sure the conference went ahead without any problems.
‘We had drivers on hand, people preparing food from the early hours, T-shirt distributors, you name it, and we had it! But among the controlled chaos was the undoubted ambiance of teamwork, friendship and a positive attitude which was felt by all and truly made this conference an enormous success.’
Jody commented: ‘I have been part of PeaceJam since 1998 and every PeaceJam weekend has its own spirit and energy.
‘But I have to say that the Winchester weekend was off the charts. That is because every single person who worked so hard to make this first Winchester PeaceJam possible and every single person who participated in the weekend was fully engaged.’
The sessions over the weekend were inspiring. There were activists from Amnesty International speaking about the importance of women’s rights. The London-based rapper Potent Whisper held a poetry workshop exploring the importance of expression through words. Local organisation Tools For Self Reliance held a hands-on session of refurbishing tools which will be shipped off to countries that need them.
And Adrian Brewer from Walk for Water popped over to deliver an engaging, yet thought-provoking workshop on the importance of water purification and also the struggle those who carry water for many miles have to face.
‘Following the projects, the young people then got to hear an incredible speech by Jody,’ said Luke.
‘You could feel the atmosphere in the room pass from student to student as Jody delivered passionate advice straight from her heart.
‘Never before in my life have I seen so many people so touched by such a powerful demonstration of encouragement and support. Jody changed lives and it has certainly been felt in the weeks following the event.
‘Alongside service projects, we had workshops, which were hour-long engaging sessions for both the pupils and the mentors. Student Hubs spoke about the international volunteering, Simon Keyes from the St Ethelburga’s Centre spoke on dialogue and the World Wide Education Project set up a refugee tent in their room. Surya Arts were entertaining kids with a Bhangra Dance workshop and a powerful workshop from the local Theatre Royal.
‘We then held a music evening organised by the mentors allowing local musicians to come and take the stage to entertain those at the conference. Dubbed the PeaceJam ‘Jam’, it went incredibly and truly showed not only impressive talented young people but also the generosity of the performers to come down and play and give up their Saturday evenings. ‘Overall, you could not fault the weekend. From start to finish it has to be one of the most amazing things I have ever been involved in.
‘The impact it had on everyone who attended and especially me is something that I will never forget. The mentors and organisers have agreed to stick together putting together fundraisers and events and we have had confirmation from the university that there will definitely be a PeaceJam Winchester 2016.’
Reading Luke’s story, it is difficult not to feel that here is an impressive individual with an old head on young shoulders.
And his is a valuable lesson for all of us. If you really want to make something happen, like Luke, you can.