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Interview with John Pedley

Aired April 8, 2010 - 16:49:00   ET



BECKY ANDERSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Most of us would dig deep to give to donate to a good cause.

But how many of us would give up everything in the name of charity?

Wealthy British businessman, John Pedley, has done just that. He's selling his multi-million dollar farmhouse, his car and his consultancy firm to set up homes in rural Uganda. From there, he hopes to kick start a charity to improve the health and education of his new local community.

It's a U-turn for the 41-year-old, who admits a colorful past, including a stint sleeping on the streets from an alcohol addiction.

Moving from a mansion to a mud hut, John Pedley is your Connector of the Day.


ANDERSON: Well, John Pedley certainly has a tale to tell.

I spoke to him earlier about his life-changing decision and started by asking him where it all began.

This is what he told me.


JOHN PEDLEY: You know, I come from a nice background, the eldest of six kids, a good upbringing. At about 15, I went completely and utterly off the rails and started living completely for myself, ended up leaving home at 16, leaving school at 15 and then coming -- getting to a place where my life was what -- one long series of highs and lows. Some of the highs, you know, some really good business stuff. A lot of the lows, alcoholism, homelessness, brushes with the law and just -- just a life totally and utterly focused on me.

ANDERSON: You're very modest when you say that you've done well in business. You've done extremely well in business.

Katie MC writes in. She says: "What motivated your midlife conversion?"

PEDLEY: I mean I -- I had a big car crash when I was 32, I think -- six weeks in a coma. I was drunk. Six weeks in a coma, 15 weeks in a hospital, all metal down one side and, you know, lost the sight in one eye, brain damage, blah, blah, blah. And everyone thinks that that's the point where I started to live for anything other than myself. And I'm just not sure why that is.

I left the hospital and went back to my old life, started doing big deals, started drinking, more affairs, more fights, more everything. I just -- I didn't change at all. And it seemed pretty worthless to me, actually, because it was totally -- you know, I was still totally and utterly centered on myself.

So I started to look for some sort of meaning to life. And so I became a Christian on the 28th of February, 2004. And trying to live the way that I believe Jesus wants me to has led to a -- it's been a long process, really, Becky. It hasn't -- it wasn't -- it wasn't a Damascus Road conversion. And I don't think that because you're a Christian, you have to give up everything and go work in Africa. But I do think that that's the point where God's got me to now.

ANDERSON: You tell a remarkable story.

C. Swinkler has written in: "Why start up another charity effort instead of working with an existing organization?," he says -- or she says, "like World Vision International, for instance?"

PEDLEY: A couple of reasons. The first thing is because, like a lot of people who -- who want to give money, I want to be very sure that it's going directly to where the need is. And all I want to do is to take groups of eight to 10, 15 to 22 year olds who are starting to get off the rails in the U.K. and perhaps are starting to have their first brushes with the criminal justice system and give them a broader view of what the world actually looks like, what life is actually like for the majority of people on the planet and more than anything, have them achieve something. Because the projects that we've -- we've done and the projects that we're going to do are community transforming and life transforming.

And as to that work, we really want these young people who, frankly, have an incredibly low opinion of themselves, to realize that they can do something that has life-changing consequences.

ANDERSON: Jurgen says: "What is your opinion of the current situation in Uganda, the political situation in Uganda?"

PEDLEY: Uganda is actually, as far as I'm current, you know, a lot of times it's been, to a lot of people at a lot of different levels, a very stable country. Yes, it's got elections coming up. I mean, fortunately -- actually, we'll -- we'll be doing this in the southwest of the country. And historically, the problems in Uganda over the past few years have been in the north of the country, due to the Lord's Resistance Army.

Certainly, from our perspective, the young people that we take over there are going to be in a -- in a position of safety.

ANDERSON: Sally says: "Do you think that the current mind set will last and what makes you sure?"

And I guess she's talking about your own, given your experience in the past.

PEDLEY: I've got such a passion for young people in this country who are just lost like I was lost, through no fault of anyone but my own -- at -- or myself. At 15 years old, I made a series of decisions, and kept making those decisions into my early 20s, that damaged myself and damaged others. And I'm passionate about not seeing young people slip into a cycle of criminality, imprisonment, criminality, imprisonment, criminality, imprisonment that wrecks lives, wrecks families and wrecks communities.

This matters. And it matters a lot more than anything I've done before.


ANDERSON: A remarkable story, isn't it?

Well, if you want to know more about John's mission in Uganda, you can visit his Web site. It's That's

Well, our next Connector has taken a different path to helping others -- he's walked it. One of England's greatest cricketers, Sir Ian Botham, has been putting one foot in front of the other for 25 years to raise money for kids with leukemia. And he is about to set off again.

Is there something you want to ask the sports star that we affectionately know here in the U.K. as "beefy?"

If so, head to Send your questions in. Don't forget to tell us where you're writing from. We'll take a look at them all and we will choose the best.