Former hostages join together to celebrate Ingrid Betancourt receiving award
Former hostage Ingrid Betancourt has been presented with a lifetime award to honour her commitment in the field of humanitarian work, at an event hosted by EdmissionUK in association with Hostage International.
United at the event were former hostages Terry Waite CBE and Judith Tebbutt – both on the Board of Hostage International – together with John McCarthy CBE and Colin Freeman, who attended the ceremony at the Library members club in London to celebrate Ingrid’s award.
Ingrid Betancourt, born in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1961, became a politician and presidential candidate celebrated for her determination to combat widespread corruption. In 2002 she was taken hostage. For more than six and a half years, the FARC held her hostage in the Colombian jungle until she was rescued on July 2, 2008.
On receiving the award from Lewis Owens, Director of EdmissionUK, Ingrid talked about the depths of resilience she had to delve to during her time in captivity in the jungle and how the love of her family gave her the faith to know she would escape; even during those years she was chained to trees.
“When I had to explain to my children of what it was like, I have a metaphor that I thought I was living in the Planet of the Apes; not only because I was in the Amazon jungle, in this incredible environment, so secluded and isolated yet with freedom all around with all the animals free – except us. That contrast made an impression in how I processed the experience.”
She added: “It was an extreme experience and I would have never known deeply who I am if I hadn’t gone through what happened.”
Ingrid thanked Lewis for the award saying: “I am very honoured to be with all of you, and with Terry and John, who I have known from a long time ago because we have had the opportunity to talk about our different experience of abduction which are so different but in some ways so similar.”
“I am also aware of the many people who still suffer in so many ways, and it is my sincere hope that these St Martin’s Awards will continue to recognise and support all people that endure in silence and solitude.”
Director of Hostage International, Lara Symons, congratulated Ingrid and thanked Lewis, before saying: “It is an amazing union of people in the room today. Terry, John, Jude and Colin, only you with Ingrid, can truly understand the terrible plight of having your liberty taken away from you and having your physical and mental capacity tested to the extreme.
“We at Hostage International are inspired and motivated to do our work because we know and work with former hostages and their families, many of whom volunteer for us, and in you we see that human spirit that takes people through adversity.”
Ingrid praised the work of Hostage International and added: “Coming back after captivity is as hard as the captivity.”
After the event, Lewis Owens, Director of EdmissionUK took the opportunity to explain why he supports Hostage International, saying:
“My desire to help Hostage International stems largely from the tremendous and vital work they do in supporting the needs of people affected by hostage and kidnapping incidents. Many of their volunteers have had a personal experience of kidnapping or detention and are therefore in a unique position to provide the support that is needed.
“Due to the sensitive and confidential nature of their work, I am aware that they often operate under the radar which can make raising funds for their cause difficult. I am honoured and privileged to help in any way I can.”
Since 2012, EdmissionUK have supported students, professionals and organisations working in the fields of literature, visual and performing arts. These awards have subsequently developed into the St Martin’s Awards, named in honour of the 4th Century Bishop Martin of Tours, who championed the plight of the poor and marginalised.
Former recipients of the St Martin’s Awards include Terry Waite CBE, Tony Adams MBE, HMP Liverpool, Paula Harriott from the Prison Reform Trust, and Jose Aguiar from HMP Pentonville.
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