Hostage International exists to serve the needs of hostages and their families around the world.
Kidnapping is a frightful and lonely experience, impacting not only the hostage but their family, friends, community, colleagues and employer. As an independent charity, we strive to make sure that people affected by kidnapping are supported throughout their ordeal and do not suffer alone. We aim to make this terrible time slightly more bearable.
We provide personal support and access to specialist services to families during and after the kidnap of a loved one, and to hostages who have returned home.
We deliver training and education to organisations in family support and post-release support, assisting them in fulfilling their responsibilities to employees and their families in the wake of a kidnap or other crisis.
We advocate for improved policy and practice in family and post-release support by representing the family voice and providing a platform for families and former hostages to highlight their challenges and needs.
Hostage International was founded as Hostage UK in 2004 by Terry Waite CBE (former hostage in Beirut, 1987-1991) and Carlo Laurenzi OBE. Both recognised the gap in support provision for families and former hostages. They were soon joined by a handful of likeminded individuals, including Rachel Briggs OBE, who either had been personally affected by kidnapping or worked in kidnap and crisis management roles. Based in the UK, Hostage UK became the go-to organisation for independent and open-ended support for families affected by a kidnap incident regardless of their nationality or place of residence.
In 2018, we changed our name to Hostage International to reflect the global scope of our work. In 2016, we co-founded Hostage US, and in 2019 we assisted in the launch of Hostage Italia.
Hostage International supports families and hostages and provides training and advocacy services around the world, while Hostage US and Hostage Italia are country-specific. The three existing Hostage organisations, while separate legal entities, share the same aims, operating principles and ethos.
Lara Symons is the Chief Executive of Hostage International.
She has a distinguished career working in crisis response, having joined Control Risks in 1999 as the Crisis Response Research Manager and was appointed Director of Response Business Operations in 2009. She joined Hostage in February 2017 as their first full-time director, bringing with her an exceptional knowledge of worldwide kidnapping trends and an understanding of the impact that kidnapping has on both corporates and families. She has extensive experience in directly assisting families affected by a kidnap and in supporting former hostages. Lara regularly delivers training in best practice in family support and hostage re-integration.
Lara holds first class degrees in Law (University of Oxford) and Political Science (McGill University) and a Masters degree in International Relations (McGill University). She qualified as a solicitor in 1997, and practised as a civil litigator in London. Fluent in French and Spanish, Lara also previously worked at the European Commission in Brussels.
Having spent more than 17 years on a kidnap response team, I acquired an insight into the distressing impact kidnapping has on all those closely associated with it. Working with Hostage International, I have come to recognise the many, additional practical and day-to-day issues that families and former hostages face. Hostage International plays a critical and unique role in offering accessible, independent and confidential support to help the families of hostages and returning hostages cope with those issues.
Jess joined Hostage International in July 2017 as the Coordinator before being promoted to Operations Manager in 2020. She organises the Family and Hostage Support Service and alongside Lara, looks after the day-to-day running of the organisation.
Prior to joining Hostage International, Jess managed staff in administration and events and worked for the British Red Cross in emergency response, where she coordinated a county-level service and led voluntary teams to provide practical and emotional support to people affected by a variety of incidents.
Jess holds a Master’s degree in History and Archaeology from the University of Edinburgh and another in International Security Studies from the University of Reading.
In her spare time, Jess can be found sailing on lakes and oceans, in the yoga studio or hiking in the countryside. Jess also volunteers time teaching young people outdoor activities and loves to travel.
From working in emergencies and the humanitarian sector, I recognise the importance of supporting individuals during difficult times. My time with Hostage International has shown me the unique issues that can arise for hostages and their families and I am proud to work amongst this dedicated team, which works tirelessly to resolve issues and make the situations more bearable for families.
Georgina joined Hostage International in October 2019 to help raise awareness of the organisation. She works across all area of communications from marketing and digital through to PR and media relations.
She has extensive experience in media and communications, having started her career in local print journalism before moving to pursue her interest in the charity sector as a reporter on Third Sector magazine. She spent nearly a decade of her working life in various roles within the British Red Cross communications division before deciding to take the leap into the world of freelancing and taking shorter term contracts to work around her family.
While at the British Red Cross she helped create and manage its Voices Network to empower people who are refugees or seeking asylum to speak out; supported the creation of the Communicating with Disaster Affected Communities Network (CDAC Network); and worked on far-reaching communications campaigns particularly around preparing for disasters.
George has worked with a range of organisations across the sector including The Youth Sport Trust, Doctors of the World, The Abbeyfield Society and the think tank, British Future.
I feel incredibly privileged to be part of the Hostage International team working to fill what would otherwise be an enormous gap in provision for hostages and their families. Through this role, I hope to help highlight the work of the organisation to encourage those working in high risk zones to be prepared; that in the horrific event of someone being kidnapped their families and loved ones are supported; and that members of the media feel empowered to report responsibly on kidnappings while preventing further distress to anyone affected by any hostage situation.
Co-founder and Trustee
Vice-chair of the Board of Trustees
Trustee and Communications Committee lead
Trustee and Fundraising Committee lead
Terry Waite CBE was born on May 31 1939, in Cheshire, the son of a village policeman. He was educated in London and abroad, and has worked for much of his life from a Church base. After working with the Church of England Board of Education in the UK and as an adviser to the Bishop of Bristol he accepted a position as adviser to the first African Archbishop of Uganda. During his time in Uganda, Terry dealt directly with Idi Amin to champion the release of Ugandan and overseas prisoners who suffered as a result of the Amin coup. Following his time in Uganda he moved with his family to Rome, Italy and spent several years working on conflict resolution and development issues throughout the world.
In 1980 Robert Runcie, the Archbishop of Canterbury, appointed Terry Secretary for Anglican Communion Affairs to work with churches abroad. After a few months Terry played the key role in securing the release of several European and Iranian captives when they were held on spy charges in Tehran. Terry’s reputation as a special emissary was cemented when in 1984 he established contact with Colonel Muammar Gadaffi in Libya, where three Britons had been detained following the murder of a policewoman outside the Libyan Embassy in London, and was instrumental in aiding their release.
In 1987, Terry made a dangerous journey to Lebanon to negotiate for hostages there. This journey was made despite the threat to his own safety, and out of Terry’s commitment to advocate for the release of hostages as the only negotiator who had met the kidnappers face to face. He was captured on 20th January 1987 and spent almost five years in captivity, nearly four years of which were in solitary confinement. No information on his whereabouts or survival reaching the wider world for over four years. During his incarceration, he was blindfolded, beaten, and subjected to a mock execution. He lived much of the time chained to a wall in a room without natural light. In the final months of captivity he suffered from a severe chest infection which almost cost him his life. He was finally released in November 1991.
After his release, Terry was elected to a fellowship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge where he completed his first book Taken on Trust, that he had written in his memory during the years of captivity when he was without pencil or paper. Today he is deeply engaged in many humanitarian causes including the homeless, overseas development, prisoners. Terry has been awarded the MBE and CBE for his humanitarian work and is the recipient of many honorary doctorates from Universities both in the UK and abroad. He is married to Frances and they have four children and three grandchildren.
Terry is Hostage International’s Founder and President.
I helped found Hostage International as I believed that hostage families are helped by being able to talk with others who have been through the experience themselves – either as a hostage or as a family member. I also recognized the need for an independent organisation to engage in research into hostage taking and to co-ordinate activities in this field.
John Smith is the Chairman of Hostage International and a Board Member and co-Founder of HostageUS. He advises international organisations on security, intelligence and resilience management. He has been in business since leaving the British Army where he served in general management and specialist roles.
John is a Past President and Life Member of the International Security Management Association, a member of the Senior Advisory Committee of the Overseas Security Advisory Council (a business support organisation sponsored and funded by the US State Department), former Chairman and Emeritus member of the Risk and Security Management Forum and a founding Fellow of the Security Institute.
In business, I was confident that I had everything in place to deal with hostage incidents. It is only since joining the “Hostage” brand that I have realised just how much more support is needed for the families of hostages and returning hostages. In reality, Duty of Care extends well beyond the actual incident. Getting this wrong may lead to an organisation snatching reputational defeat from the jaws of victory.
Peter Rudge is the Managing Director of duckrabbit, a film production company based in London. Peter spent 11 years in the British Diplomatic Service and was one of a number of tourists kidnapped by separatist rebels in northern Ethiopia in 2007.
Libby Bassett joined the Board of Hostage International in April 2018 and swiftly took on the role as Treasurer. As Treasurer, Libby sits on the Executive Committee and given her background, she also contributes to the initiatives of the International Committee.
Libby was a partner of KPMG for 15 years. In addition to being a chartered accountant, Libby also brings to Hostage International extensive experience of business development globally and of governance in the charity sector through her seven years as a governor of Cheltenham Ladies’ College, the last four as chair.
Mike joined the Board of Hostage International in April 2017. As Honorary Secretary he serves on the executive and is responsible for the charity’s governance framework. He also contributes to a number of sub-committees including, family and hostage support, education and fundraising.
Mike is founder and principal director of MRC Global Risk. With a career in security risk management and incident response, Mike specialises in reputational risk helping companies conduct business in unpredictable, complex markets. Before entering the corporate sector, Mike served in the Royal Air Force.
Having learned of Hostage International’s extraordinary achievements in supporting returning hostages and their families, with a remarkable team of mainly volunteers, when invited to join the Board as a trustee I was only too pleased to accept. I look forward to contributing to Hostage International’s growth and development.
Co-founder and Trustee
Carlo is a co-founder of Hostage International.
Carlo Laurenzi OBE is former CEO of the London Wildlife Trust and former Executive Director of Prisoners Abroad. He has also worked for Lloyds Bank, the London Borough of Islington, and the Open University, and has been Director of Policy and Research at the National Deaf Children’s Society (NDCS) and worked on secondment at the Foreign Office in Consular Services.
I helped set up Hostage International because I saw there was a gap in service provision and a very real need for what we offer. My experiences before Hostage International showed me that there was no genuine and thought-through support for the families of a hostage victim that put them first. I find the work challenging and immensely rewarding – you can be looking at geopolitics one moment and then individuals’ emotional needs the next.
Vice-chair of the Board of Trustees
Phil is involved in Hostage International’s family and hostage support work. As a trustee, he leads the Family and Hostage Support Committee, assisting in solving the mountains of challenges our beneficiaries face as a result of a kidnap as well as overseeing the governance of the service. In addition, Phil is a caseworker providing direct support to families and former hostages.
Phil Bigley was born in Liverpool and worked as a maths teacher before moving into the commercial sector. In 2004, Phil’s brother Kenneth, a British engineer, was taken hostage while working in Iraq and killed. The kidnap of Ken and his murder became a high-profile case in Britain and overseas, putting the Bigley family under immense public scrutiny, and also inspiring immense public support. Phil joined the team at Hostage International to work with the relatives of hostage victims, providing pastoral support and advice, and also to help improve government’s and organisation’s responses to kidnapping and their family liaison.
A kidnap puts a family under a lot of pressure. At Hostage International we put the family first, and help them find a safe space and the resources they need, in an otherwise difficult situation.
Trustee and Communications Committee lead
Claire started her career as a journalist at BBC News and then went in to mainstream TV production running broadcast productions of all sizes and genres for some of the best known companies in the business. Claire joined the Board of Trustees in 2018, sits on the Fundraising Committee and leads the Communciations Commitee.
Pulina joined the board of Hostage International in 2018 and contributes to the Fundraising and International Committees.
Pulina Whitaker is a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, an international law firm. She specialises in employment and data privacy compliance and has been appointed as the UN’s sexual abuse and exploitation compliance monitor to an aviation contractor. She has also recently been appointed as the compliance monitor to an international charity in accordance with requirements of a US government agency. She was appointed to Hostage International’s Board of Trustees earlier this year.
Stephen Regel is Principal Psychotherapist/Director of the Centre for Trauma, Resilience and Growth, Nottinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust; Honorary Professor in the School of Education, Nottingham University; and a Senior Fellow of the Institute of Mental Health, Nottingham.
He has over 30 years experience working with trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and his time is divided between clinical and teaching activities. From 2002-2010, he was a visiting therapist/consultant at the Family Trauma Centre in Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Stephen was awarded an OBE in 2013 for services to victims of trauma.
Jude joined Hostage International in the charity’s early days and has returned in 2019 for another trustee term. She sits on the Communications and Family and Hostage Support Committees.
Jude Tebbutt is from Cumbria and moved to the south of England after meeting her husband, David. Jude’s career has been in social work. She has worked in substance misuse and assertive outreach teams as well as in a medium secure hospital with women suffering from severe mental health problems. She also raised awareness of mental health issues and personality disorders.
On 11 September 2011, Jude was taken hostage by Somali pirates while she and her husband were travelling on the Kenyan coast. David was killed in the kidnap, and Jude was taken hostage and kept in solitary confinement for six months.
It was after my release that I became aware of Hostage International and the valuable work that the charity provides to families who find themselves in very frightening and bewildering circumstances.
Trustee and Fundraising Committee lead
Chris Smith is the Global Head of Corporate Security for HSBC. He has spent over 30 years in the field of commercial security in both financial services and the hospitality industry with extensive international experience. He has a Masters Degree in Security and Crime Risk Managemnet and is a Fellow of the Security Institute, a member off the International Security Management Association and a member of the Worshipful Company of Security Professionals. He is a former detective in a colonial police force.
Liz Chamberlin, J.D. is the Executive Director of the International Security Management Association (ISMA), a membership association of senior security executives from major multinational companies worldwide. She has enjoyed an eight-year (and counting!) tenure with ISMA, where she previously held the Deputy Executive Director role. She began her career in law, where she had a practice focused on insurance defence litigation, workers compensation, and corporate litigation matters. Liz is passionate about non-profit leadership and enjoys working with boards to build well-governed organisations.
She graduated from the University of Iowa (B.A., political science and international relations); and from the University of Iowa College of Law in the United States. Liz has permanently relocated to Hampshire, UK where she lives with her husband and their two old and grumpy Jack Russell terriers.
Mental Health Advisor
Mental Health Advisor
Mental Health Advisor
Mental Health Advisor
Dr Lesley Perman-Kerr is the Managing Director of Vivant Artemis and is a Chartered Psychologist and psychotherapist.
She was awarded a PhD in Psychology, jointly supervised by the Universities of Hertfordshire and Oxford, and is a member of the British Psychological Society (chartered), the National Council of Psychotherapists, the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies and is a founder member of the Association of Business Psychologists. She has professional experience in: ongoing/post hostage, kidnap and other traumatic incidents (including 9/11); personnel dealing with psychiatric disorders and intimidation in the workplace; organisations subject to employee extortion threats; individuals preparing for secondments abroad; armed forces personnel: post-engagement or returning to civilian life; individuals and groups following a critical incident; debriefing and counselling; organisations and individuals on stress inoculation and the management of stress.
Mental Health Advisor
Professor Neil Greenberg is an academic psychiatrist based at King’s College London UK and is a consultant occupational and forensic psychiatrist. Neil served in the United Kingdom Armed Forces for more than 23 years and has deployed, as a psychiatrist and researcher, to a number of hostile environments including Afghanistan and Iraq. Neil also runs March on Stress (www.marchonstress.com) which is a company that provides a range of psychological health offerings to companies that predictably place their personnel in harm’s way.
Neil studied medicine at Southampton University and graduated in 1993. He then served as a general duties doctor in a variety of Warships, Submarines and with two Royal Marines Commando units. During his time with the Royal Marines he achieved his arctic warfare qualification and completed the all arms commando course, earning the coveted Green Beret.
Neil has specialised in Psychiatry and completed a Masters Degree in Clinical Psychiatry, a Doctorate in Mental Health and is a Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatrists. He is a specialist in General Adult, Forensic and Liaison Psychiatry and is a member of the faculty of forensic and legal medicine and the faculty of medical leadership and management.
Since 1997 Neil has been at the forefront of developing peer led traumatic stress support packages which is now in use by a wide variety of organisations. The use of Trauma Risk Management (TRiM) was initially led by the Royal Marines and has since been taken up by other organisations including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, media organisations numerous UK police forces and the London Ambulance Service.
Neil provided psychological input for Foreign Office personnel after the events of September 11th 2001 and in Bali after 12th October 2002 bombings. He has also assisted with the aftermath management of number of other significant incidents including assisting the London Ambulance Service in the wake of the London Bombings in 2005. He has also provided mental health input into the psychological repatriation of a number of hostages over the past ten years.
In 2008 he was awarded the Gilbert Blane Medal by the Royal Navy for his work in supporting the health of Naval personnel through his research work.
Neil has published more than 160 scientific papers, book chapters and has presented to national and international audiences on matters concerning the psychological health of the UK Armed Forces, organisational management of traumatic stress and occupational mental health. He has been the Secretary of the European Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, is the President of the UK Psychological Trauma Society and the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ Lead for Military and Veterans Health.
Neil has extensive experience of conducting research in military and veteran populations and has successfully led the first two ever randomised controlled trials on the effectiveness of psychological health interventions in the UK Armed Forces. He has established excellent links with veteran health providers and with US and other coalition military mental health providers and researchers. He, working with the team at King’s College London, is one of the UK’s leading military health researchers and has published very widely on a broad spectrum of military health and traumatic stress related topics (www.kcl.ac.uk/kcmhr) and advises the Armed Forces, Media organisations and UK government regularly about mental health issues.
Mental Health Advisor
Professor Gordon Turnbull is a consultant psychiatrist specialising in the assessment of patients suffering from the psychological after-effects of trauma. He is the leading Trauma and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) expert at Capio Nightingale Hospital, Consultant Advisor in Psychiatry to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and Visiting Professor to University College Chester. Professor Turnbull graduated from Edinburgh University and entered psychiatry at the Neuropsychiatric Centre, Royal Air Force Hospital Wroughton in Wiltshire in 1980 with post-graduate experience in General Medicine, expedition medicine and neurology. After being appointed Consultant in 1986, his focus turned to psychological trauma after the Lockerbie Air Disaster in 1988, and active service in the Gulf War of 1991 as RAF psychiatric adviser in the field doing first-ever debriefings of British prisoners-of-war and released British hostages from the Lebanon. He developed new treatment strategies for trauma in the RAF and post-RAF has concentrated on trauma services for police officers, emergency service personnel and military veterans.