Charity founder turns globetrotter after winning prestigious Churchill Fellowship to carry out research in USA

A charity founder from Exmouth has scooped a prestigious award that will see her travel America researching new approaches to suicide prevention and bereavement to benefit UK families.  

Alison Jordan, CEO of Pete’s Dragons, is among 150 people to be selected from nearly 1,800 applicants to win a Churchill Fellowship. 

The grant means Alison can embark on a once-in-a-lifetime trip across the Atlantic and spend two months in the USA later this year. 

“I am absolutely honoured to have been chosen,” said Alison. “I’ll endeavour to ensure that whatever I learn will be shared to help enhance suicide bereavement services in the UK.”

Alison’s fellowship is one of 11 that have been awarded in a partnership between the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust (WCMT) and the Samaritans for projects dedicated to preventing suicide and self-harm, or supporting people bereaved by suicide.

 “I’m excited and grateful to spend time in the USA, both in rural locations and cities, looking at suicide prevention and bereavement from a differing view within a different culture,” said Alison. 

“I am keeping a very open mind about what I may learn. Suicide prevention and bereavement are two very complex subjects with multi-faceted contributories. 

“I am looking forward to spending time with experts and filling my brain with information which could be life-changing to the beneficiaries I work with. I am particularly interested in seeing some city-based projects for children and young people bereaved by suicide.” 

Alison founded Pete’s Dragons after her brother, Pete Wicks, took his own life at the age of 24 in 2010.  

“The experience was devastating, for me, my family, my children and the local community,” said Alison.  

When she realised that no specialist suicide bereavement service existed in Devon, Alison left her job in law, retrained and set up the charity.

Today, the cause provides bespoke suicide bereavement support to more than 300 people across the county. 

Churchill Fellowships offer UK citizens the opportunity to travel the world and research cutting-edge solutions to important topical issues. The aim is to explore global best practice in the issues facing Britain today and bring back global insights to improve communities and professions. 

“Churchill Fellows are inspiring individuals who scour the world for fresh approaches to today’s crucial issues,” said Julia Weston, chief executive of the WCMT. “It’s a unique chance to make change happen.” 

Alison’s fellowship is supported by the John Armitage Charitable Trust.

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