Alice Peck spoke to the Lower Sixth on Saturday morning’s PSD lesson, and it was – for various reasons – a most memorable occasion. To begin with, this was the first ‘in-person’ talk the students have enjoyed this calendar year – and it made such a difference having human contact and hearing a live voice.
The talk took place in Chapel – which allowed for social distancing – and Alice was able share images via the newly installed, and tastefully designed, presentation screens which significantly enhanced communication throughout the nave.
And then the talk itself, entitled Lessons From An Unexpected Life, was extraordinary. Alice relayed her life story from when she was 17 – the age of her audience. Following a happy school career at Eastbourne College, she went to Bristol University, attained a First in Politics, won an election to represent the Student Union – a position she held for a year – and moved to the States to complete a Master’s and to work in homelessness services, before moving to Greece. During this time Alice became deeply concerned about the emerging refugee crisis in Europe.
Alice offered her services as a volunteer and found herself at the front line of the biggest humanitarian crisis Europe has seen for a generation. It was a profoundly upsetting experience. Alice powerfully and movingly conveyed the struggle to care for desperate people and provide them with a modicum of respect and dignity.
Such was the level of sustained stress and trauma that Alice began to lose her hair and within the space of a few months she developed alopecia. Alice educated the audience about alopecia – what it is and the challenges it brings – and how she has come to accept and embrace it. As part of the process of recovery she undertook the Pacific Crest Trail – a path from Mexico to Canada – and explained how the journey through such sublime landscapes helped transform her sense of self.
Alice now leads a charity, The Wren Project, for those with autoimmune diseases (www.wrenproject.org) and is determined to write for a living.
The Wren Project responds to the social and emotional symptoms of autoimmune disease that are seen as secondary to the medical. She also has a remarkable blog: Alice Peck – to float a little above this difficult world