Former hostage writes to Padiham children studying his story

Teaching assistant Claire Pilkington with the St Leonard's pupils.
Teaching assistant Claire Pilkington with the St Leonard's pupils.
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Pupils at a Padiham primary school have received a personal letter from a humanitarian worker-turned author after studying the story of his five-year imprisonment in Lebanon where he was working to secure the freedom of four hostages being held by the Islamic Jihad Organization.

Having been enthralled by the story of Terry Waite, the former envoy to the Archbishop of Canterbury who travelled to Beirut in the 1980s in an effort to help free a number of hostages, the children at St Leonard's CoE Primary School wrote letters to Mr Waite, who spent much of his time as a captive shackled with his eyes covered.

"During the time I was a hostage I did not have anything to write with and so I had to write in my head," he wrote to the children. "By this I mean that I had to make up stories in my imagination and tell them to myself. I was very glad that when I was at school I read a lot of books.

"I loved reading and years later when I had no books I could remember many of the stories," he continued. "I hope that you will read as many books as possible. I would not like to think any of you will be taken captive as I was but when you are older you will be very glad that you learned to love books when you were at school.

"One day, someone in your class may become a writer. You never know. I never thought I should write a book but now I have written five," Mr Waite added.

As part of their studies, the Year 4 children wrote as if they were Mr Waite being held hostage, focusing on some of the key experiences such as isolation, being chained up, and never knowing if release would come.

"The pupils worked hard and seemed to grasp many of Mr Waite's problems and wrote with great understanding," said Claire Pilkington, the teaching assistant who led the group of six children, with Beverly Holmes, head of the school, adding: "It was a wonderful surprise to receive the response to the children's letters. It not only thrilled the children but showed how worthwhile it is to study some of the difficult situations people face in the world and to respond in our own way."

Apologising for not being able to visit the school personally, Mr Waite concluded his letter with a few words of wisdom for the pupils, saying: "Life can be very hard for some people and everyone has some difficulties during their lifetime; God will help you in one way or another.

"Everyone in your class will at some time be upset," he added. "However, always remember that God is a God of love and will support you in ways that perhaps you never expected."