Terry Waite CBE Visits Hillcrest International Schools - Nairobi.
In an expression of solidarity with Kenya, Terry Waite, well known for his own traumatic experiences as a hostage negotiator in the 1970s and 1980s, visited Kenya in October 2013, hosted by Hillcrest International Schools at the invitation of IAPS District K. Waite is best known for having been taken hostage himself and held for nearly five years by Hesbollah in the late 1980s and, indeed, for returning to Lebanon 20 years later to meet his former captors and offer them his forgiveness.
Waite spent the day at Hillcrest International Schools speaking to children of all ages and having an intimate lunch with several families who were directly affected by the Westgate tragedy. He offered words of comfort and support to those he met and to Kenya saying, ‘suffering is a part of the human condition but it need not destroy. How do you get over this sort of experience? You talk about it and support one another through it, as I have seen in this community today; there will always be pain in the world but you must not let it defeat you.’
Waite spent time in Uganda during the time of Idi Amin, even delivering his fourth child in a Hospital there and when asked by a parent how his children coped with that experience looking back at it he observed, ‘my children remember the good times, despite the violence they grew up surrounded by; life is difficult and dangerous at times – we must take sensible precautions but not let it dominate our lives’.
He continued, ‘I used to say to my captors, “You may break my body and you’ve tried; you may bend my mind and you’ve tried; but my soul is not yours to take” and that gave me hope.’
When asked by one of the children if he was afraid during his captivity he replied, ‘I was. There is nothing wrong in being afraid – fear keeps you on your guard but you mustn’t let it paralyse you. Unpleasant events happen and the Westgate tragedy is sure to mark many in Kenya but it need not define you.’
Mr Waite ended his visit observing, ‘Despite the awful events of the last few weeks, I leave Kenya feeling very optimistic. At Hillcrest, I have seen a community bounded by strength; a school who have supported their children in giving voice to their grief and fear. I have no doubt, then, that you will recover and move forward and help to build a better world. What role does the individual play in this? Everything. If ten or twenty thousand individuals all reached out their hands to touch the life of a stranger to connect rather than destroy, we really could build a political solution to our problems.’
Video excerpts of Waite’s presentation to parents and a radio programme recorded by the BBC can be heard at Hillcrest International Schools’ website www.hillcrest.ac.ke.
For further information please contact: Sarah Kimotho, Marketing Manager, Hillcrest International Schools, Sarahk@hillcrest.ac.ke, Tel: 0724 256173