Sexual abuse. Parental suicide. Drug addiction. Incarceration. Violence. Homelessness. Mental illness. Betrayal. Kidnap. Cancer (times three).
Such tragedies and traumas are seldom experienced by a single person. Their effects are scarring. And for most, irrecoverable. But for James Brett, these experiences have shaped who he is and have been harnessed by him to strive for something better. For forgiveness, redemption and for peace.
Brett founded 'Plant for Peace', a social enterprise focused on bringing peace to Afghanistan through the creation of agricultural cooperatives. It is perhaps no surprise that he related Afghanistan's people, most of whom have also lived lives characterised by poverty, conflict and uncertainty. For over a decade, Brett has been working in Afghanistan to support a country ravaged by war and to bring meaning and purpose to his own life. He went with no bodyguard, no gun and no limits to his ambition.
Brett learned to speak Dari and built relationships across the country. He was able to set up meetings with 55,000 tribal elders to convince them to leave violence and drug production behind them. He has burned several tonnes of heroin. Imported Afghan produce to sell fruit bars in the UK. He met the President, foreign ministers, Nato chiefs, philanthropists, celebrities; approaching each with the humility of a man whose mindset was forged in the long days and nights in solitary confinement and on the streets of Swindon. His outlook on life is hard earned but it's what is making a difference. Empathy borne from experience.
Recovery is not a battle won or lost in a single moment. It takes years of work, introspection and humility. But the quest for peace is indeed worth fighting for. Both for Afghanistan and for James Brett.