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Former hostage Terry Waite launches Beirut and Back challenge ahead of 30th anniversary of his release from captivity

Former Beirut hostage Terry Waite has launched a fund-raising challenge to boost an organisation he founded – and to mark the 30th anniversary of his release from captivity.

Terry, of Hartest, hopes fund-raisers will join the Beirut and Back – Challenge for All virtual event, which asks people using any human-powered means to contribute towards covering 5,700 miles – the distance from Terry’s home to Beirut – and back.

Taking place from September 4-12, it is in aid of Hostage International, a cause close to Terry's heart.

Terry Waite. Picture by Jenny Coles (49662315)
Terry Waite. Picture by Jenny Coles (49662315)

"I can hardly believe it is 30 years (on November 18) since I was released from captivity. It is amazing the number of people who still remember that event and the number of people who stop me in the streets to tell me they remember," said Terry, who was held mainly in solitary confinement for five years.

"When I was released I was approached by other people who had been taken hostage who were not getting the support and help they needed. I tried to help as many people as possible and I realised there was a tremendous need," said Terry, who eventually founded what was then Hostage UK and became Hostage International.

The organisation provides free support to the family and friends of those taken hostage and people released from captivity. Much of that support has moved online during the pandemic.

Terry Waite. Picture by Jenny Coles (49662313)
Terry Waite. Picture by Jenny Coles (49662313)

"Almost overnight, my engagements were cancelled or postponed and I had the opportunity to do some things I have always wanted to do – read more and write more.

"The pandemic also gave me the opportunity to have regular conversations online with former hostages. That has been so useful," said Terry, 82.

He can recount numerous success stories of those who have accessed support through Hostage International, but says as confidentiality is key to the organisation's work it can be difficult to gain publicity.

This is one reason the fund-raising challenge is so important.

"Beirut and Back is, simply, we want people to clock up some miles towards our 5,000-mile target. We don't expect people to cover 5,700 miles, they can walk, run, swim, jump – whatever they want. Just tell us the miles you have done so we can log them.

"The £15 registration fee goes straight to Hostage International funds, it is a way of raising money which isn't too hard. Hopefully, if we can get a lot of people to register, it will make a tremendous difference," said Terry.

The Lebanese embassy is supporting a private event to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Terry's release in November.

The milestone anniversary offers a chance for Terry to reflect on his experiences, but he still maintains his captivity offered him new opportunities in life.

"I have always had this belief that first of all there are many people who have had worse times than me.

"I did nearly five years and there are people who have done longer than that. I was tortured, but not to the same extent as some people.

"In the last 15 months many people have been experiencing quite difficult times and quite hard times. I have often said, in every situation of difficulty there are the seeds of something creative and new that can happen," he added.

For more information about Beirut and Back, go to https://www.hostageinternational.org/news/hostage-international-launches-its-first-mass-challenge-fundraiser/

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