International visionary PJ Cole, last night delivered the 141st Roscoe Lecture using his platform to set out the role the African continent will play in driving global prosperity, as well as reflect on his life and work in Sierra Leone.
Described as an exceptional young leader by the Commonwealth Association, PJ’s life was thrown into chaos by the civil war which erupted in his country when he was 13. His late father, the Rev. Richard Cole led a project to rescue, rehabilitate and educate ex-child soldiers, young people of all ages, stolen from their communities by the rebel forces.
PJ’s parents cared for over 800 young people and with the guiding principle ‘to teach a child is to develop a nation’, they built a school and were eventually running over four schools educating over 1,000 students.
PJ described a life standing shoulder to shoulder with his ‘brothers’ and how education had given the young rebels an identity and sense of purpose.
After qualifying as a lawyer, PJ taught in London but returned to Sierra Leone to run the Lifeline Nehemiah Projects – the school and home established by his late father.
During the Ebola crisis, which overwhelmed Sierra Leone, PJ and his team led community education programmes, provided food and water and built an Ebola clinic from scratch – in the spirit in which he and his brothers approach their role in the community, they googled ‘how to build a clinic’ in order to complete the task.
Addressing an audience in the city’s St George’s Hall, PJ set out his hope for the future of the African people, drawing on the character and resilience displayed by the experiences of his team of former child soldiers, war slaves and orphans. By investing in, believing in and motivating this lost generation they are building a future by taking responsibility for their own communities.
Paying tribute to PJ at the end of the presentation, Sir Jon Murphy, new Chair of the Roscoe Lecture Series described his vision as thought provoking and insightful – a young leader destined for success.
Waterloo Partnership Awards
Local schools who have raised funds to support the work in Sierra Leone were represented at the lecture and introduced on stage by the Waterloo Partnership who are linked with the community of Waterloo in Sierra Leone. Schoolchildren active in the fundraising activities met with PJ Cole before the lecture.
Forthcoming Roscoe Lectures include Mark Carney, Governor of the Bank of England on 5 December at the Echo Arena. Find out more about this and other LJMU events.