Deborah’s story

I met Terry Waite two weeks before Christmas in 2010.

I had been full of self-pity, feeling like one of life’s victims. How could such a terrible thing have happened – to me?

My thoughts began to take me to Terry Waite, the ordeal he had been through, four whole years of solitary confinement. He had done no wrong, a church envoy, hostage negotiator only to be taken as a hostage himself.

I had heat, food, a bed to sleep on. I had a window to look out of. I could see the sky. I could keep myself clean. I had a sink in my cell and access to a daily shower. I could use the toilet whenever I needed to. I was not suffering from sensory deprivation. I had a TV in my cell a radio to listen to books to read, pen and paper to write letters. I could communicate with the other prisoners if I chose to do so.

I was starting to feel less sorry for myself when my cell was unlocked and an officer asked if I wanted to listen to the Warrington male voice choir.

Why not, I thought, it will get me out of the cell for a while.

As I stepped through the door I was met by what seemed like a mountain of a man, he held out his hand to me as he introduced himself.

“Good afternoon young lady I’m Terry Waite” he stated. I looked up into his smiling face as my hand met his own.

“I’m Deborah, Mr Waite,” I responded “and it’s a true honour to meet you.”

I could not believe this was happening, I had just been thinking about him and here he was in person.

As he covered what felt like my very small hand in his own. I felt what I can only describe as electricity coursing through me. A head to toe tingling experience which made me feel wonderfully alive and yet a tremendous peace engulfed me.

“Mr Waite,” I began “May I ask how you endured your ordeal?” This was the answer he gave me.

“Every human being has to go through difficulties in life and quite clearly some of us have to face very difficult experiences.

“Keep hope alive. That is what got me through. I never gave up hope. What begins must end, Deborah, and this too will end, keep hope alive.”

Although it is almost two years since Terry Waite spoke those words to me, I have never forgotten them and I am certain I never will. It’s not just the words but the way they were delivered to me with genuine humility and compassion.

As a result of that meeting I was given the strength to accept where I was and to take responsibility for my actions that brought me into prison.

I was not the victim. I had victims. I began to feel the stirrings of victim empathy and genuine remorse for the harm I had inflicted on others.

I needed to make amends. I made a decision to embark on a journey of change. To do whatever was necessary to ensure I never hurt another human being again.

A letter from a prisoner in Styal prison to her life coach that describes when she met Terry Waite.

Deborah’s original letter

Part of my journey of change has been to work with a life coach, a wonderfully genuine person who has worked with me to change my life for the better. Our work together has enabled me to value myself and to realise that I am a good person I just did not always make good choices. Today I can make wise and mature choices.

Life coaching has helped me to see that by relying on my inner strength I am able to allow my outer self to soften.

I found life coaching enlightening and, moreover, empowering. I would thoroughly recommend it to anyone given the opportunity to invest in themselves, the rewards are positively life changing.

Thank you, Belinda, it has truly been a privilege and pleasure to work with you too. I will never forget you.

Much love