Phil Packer visits Aberystwyth University

ABERYSTWYTH played host to a simply inspirational man on Wednesday afternoon when Phil Packer arrived at the University on day 269 of his 2,012 mile walk around the country this year. He is attempting to walk through every county in Britain and Northern Ireland to raise awareness for his charity, BRIT (British Inspirational Trust).

Packer was in the army since the age of 20 and was discharged after 17 years when in 2008 whilst in Afghanistan, he was hit by a 4×4 and left with spinal-cord damage with doctors saying it would be unlikely he would walk again. His life was only saved by the kevlar body armour he was wearing and in his words “the body armour wouldn’t give, so something had to and that was my spine.”

To see the rugged, striking figure of Phil Packer with his badge laden walking stick is inspirational in itself, but he attributed his recovery to luck and described his surgeon as “brilliant”.

He spoke highly of the army which he served in as part of the Royal Military Police, and said they enabled him to build up his self-esteem and confidence after a school career that was blighted by domestic violence problems at home. Leaving him unable to concentrate and work properly at school, he admits to getting into a few “scuffles” as “violence was all I knew.”

This self-esteem and self-worth was then dashed by his injury especially with the sympathy that was given to him due to his injuries with people “writing him off”. He then did a series of charity events with the first being a tandem skydive in 2008 with the famous red devils team. In February 2009 he rowed the channel, with neither him nor his partner being rowers and his partner also suffering from sea-sickness.

He founded his charity, BRIT in 2010 after visiting a number of charities including NSPCC and Princes Trust and empathising with the children who he spoke to about their problems. His aim is to build a centre for children and young-adults suffering trauma, and provide them with a lifeline.

 His charity is also admirable in the way it is being run, with no full-time staff or outlay costs. All of the staff hours are volunteered and equipment is donated, including telephones from British Telecom and the charity bank account being run voluntarily by Coutts/RBS.

He takes advice from what he termed “useful people”, using the example of the current head of ITV and is hoping this year of walking around Britain will get pledges from businesses around the world, some of which have been very receptive of the cause.

The cost he has set for setting up the centre is £15 million and is hoping that the walk ending at Canary Wharf on 19th December will get some more funds too.

Instead of asking those in attendance for donations or volunteering time, he instead asked them to ‘like’ the BRIT Facebook page in the last week of November, saying he wanted to ‘spike’ Facebook and make the corporations aware of the backing and power that his charity had, encouraging them to pledge more of their services or money.