While Britain shivered in autumn showers over the weekend, I was lucky enough to fly to Italy with a group of five graduates from the Jamie Oliver Fifteen Foundation to attend the youth drug prevention event WeFree at San Patrignano near Rimini - one of the world's most proclaimed and revered drug rehabilitation units. I wanted to truly engage myself in the absolutely faultless work that these young chefs are doing for their communities and nations around the world - as well as that of San Pat.
I have always been a huge follower of the work done at the Fifteen Foundation, ever since I starting working within the organisation. It has always been a very understated element of the company, but at the same time, I see it at the core of the Jamie Oliver Ltd brand. I was lucky enough to raise money for the foundation by running the New York Marathon, and this was my first real chance to investigate the amazing things that go on and the incredible work they do with young people. On the back of this, I was keen to learn more about the generosity and well-being that the Fifteen Foundation is responsible for around the world.
San Patrignano was all about figures to me initially. I had heard rumblings of its success rate (72% of those who go through the programme stay drug free after they leave) and the amount of people who pass through its community and are left entirely cleansed by the experience, but it all felt quite distant and other worldly. So when the chance arose for me to experience it first hand, alongside the WeFree event, it was not an opportunity I was likely to miss.
WeFree - an international project held by San Pat, that brings together NGOs, national and international groups and guys from the San Pat community to send the message out to young people they they can live great lives drug free - was completely new to me so I had no idea what to expect.
However, when you see all of the charities, good-willed characters and inspirational people come together, it is like poetry in motion. For me, whilst I had the occasional hardship whilst growing up, it really stopped me in my tracks when these stories which are usually shown to us through media platforms came to life and were suddenly so real. From an outstanding Ugandan dance troop, to a wonderful set of young people providing the youth of Afghanistan with the chance to skateboard, the diverse mix of groups made for an outstanding scale and scope of stories.
With WeFree giving both the residents of the community and students from the surrounding areas the chance to get hands on and learn new skills, it seemed only appropriate to discover new talents within yourself. Personally, I came away with a basic grip of the Italian language, four new steps to test out on the dance floor, a C+ in stencil graffiti and a small dose of road rage from releasing my inner child and believing I was still able to skate mini ramps.
So what better setting to place all of these amazing people than San Pat - a place where people are rehabilitated through education, learning and the chance to live again. Story after story is on show at San Pat, with each different than the last, and with such a positive vibe and bright outlook for the future of everyone involved, I think it is time to stand up and unite charities so that power is shared, and opinions are heard!
To find out what is going on with the UK arm of SanPa, please don't hesitate to check updates and content through Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/SanPatrignanoUK?fref=ts