My experience: ‘hostage-taking is the most heinous and traumatic of crimes’
Ben Hockman, one of our most recent volunteer recruits explains why he wanted to join Hostage International.
“Hostage-taking is the most heinous and traumatic of crimes because you can’t get over it.
“If you are taken hostage and returned there are huge challenges in adapting back into life for you, your family, and your loved ones; but if you never return then there is no closure for your loved ones, leading to a lifetime of non-closure. Then there is a long period of grief and on-going, often massive, trauma.”
In a personal bid to make this picture less bleak, Ben has recently signed up to support Hostage International, not only as a volunteer caseworker, but also as a regular donor, as he has a deep understanding around how much people affected by this extraordinary and destructive crime need ongoing support.
Ben lived and worked for an international business risk consultancy in central and south America for the best part of two decades, including in Colombia for eight years, so was no stranger to the prevalence of kidnaps.
During his work he was once held up at gunpoint in Mexico near the US border by a drugs cartel but described his experience and escape as ‘very lucky’, explaining that it could easily have gone the other way.
But it was living in Colombia through some of the country’s most unstable years that he saw the intense and on-going impact of kidnappings among his friends and colleagues.
“I know of very few Colombians of my age – early forties – who have not had direct experience of kidnappings, whether a close friend or immediate family member – a mum, dad, brother or sister.
“One of my best friends in Colombia, his mum was taken by FARC and killed, and sadly this isn’t unusual. Everyone has similar stories and I remember thinking what were the chances that it wouldn’t happen to me – pretty low – so in some ways I felt quite fortunate.”
Ben met his wife in Colombia, a country he dearly loves and which they had no intention of leaving, until they were expecting their child.
“It was almost like waking from a dream.
“We realised that we didn’t want to raise our child against the backdrop of this ‘normal’ reality we were living; always carrying a second ‘decoy’ wallet, having tracking apps on our phones, and the fact that in reality, it was ‘when not if’ someone would go missing.”
The couple now live with their daughter in the UK where Ben works in cyber-security. As well as being a devoted husband and dad, he now also gives his time to Hostage International.
While Hostage International’s expertise lies in supporting those affected by kidnaps outside their home country, Ben highlights how real it is for many people across the world. When working as a security consultant in Latin America he saw Australians, Canadians, Americans, and Brits all affected, and saw many families living in intense and perpetual fear.
“That fear that people were living in has stayed with me.
“It is the intention and the deliberate fear behind hostage taking which makes it so heinous; while cancer or road accidents are terrible, they aren’t intentional like hostage-taking which isn’t an accident,” Ben explains.
Across many of the key countries in which Hostage International provides support, hostage-taking remains a genuinely extraordinary crime, of which few know or understand.
“This is why I want to support Hostage International,” explains Ben.
“It is a niche charity and I know it’s harder to get funding and spread awareness as it is not on many people’s radars – unless it happens to you or someone you know. Then you never forget.”
Ben Hockman is bilingual in Spanish and English and brings his specialist knowledge of South and Central America to the Hostage International Team. If you are inspired by Ben’s story and would also like to give a regular gift to Hostage International, please do so here.
Ben shared his story as part of International Volunteer Day. The United Nations Volunteers Programme coordinates International Volunteer Day on 5 December every year to recognise and promote the tireless work of not just UN Volunteers, but volunteers across the globe. Find out more here.
THANK YOU TO ALL OUR INCREDIBLE VOLUNTEERS AT HOSTAGE INTERNATIONAL.
Image of a landscape in Colombia ©Ben Hockman