An audience of nearly 150 guests was joined by humanitarian and author Terry Waite CBE and Erwin James, Editor in Chief of Inside Time Magazine, on Tuesday 26 November at Canterbury Cathedral. Both guests discussed their experiences of captivity and explored topics on prison reform and homelessness.

Erwin James had a difficult childhood and ran away from home in his early teens. As a homeless youngster he began a life of crime which eventually led to him being given a prison sentence of 25 years. During that time, he discovered he had a gift for writing and became a columnist for The Guardian. He is now editor in chief of Inside Time, a newspaper distributed throughout the British prison system.

Terry Waite CBE is a British humanitarian and author who spent many years as a negotiator for hostages. In 1987, he was captured in Beirut and remained in captivity for 1,763 days, the first four years of which were spent in solitary confinement. Terry believes that his experience of captivity gave him a great insight into the misery, isolation and despair that many homeless people go through.

Terry Waite CBE, who spoke at the event, said: ‘Erwin and I compared experiences of incarceration and agreed that the cuts in prison staff and the demolition of the probation service have been disastrous for the country as a whole not just for prisoners. It was a memorable evening and raised over one thousand pounds for Emmaus Dover. Thanks are due to The Dean and Chapter of Canterbury and to their staff for making it possible to have the event at the Cathedral.’

The event was kindly supported by local architect firm, HazelMcCormackYoung who sponsored the refreshments and Morrisons in Dover who donated the raffle prize.

The money raised from the ticketed event will help Emmaus Dover continue to offer a home for as long as it’s needed to 27 formerly homeless people, as well as providing meaningful work in its three charity shops in Ashford, Canterbury and Dover.

Emmaus Dover is currently raising funds for its ‘Building a Better Future’ project, which aims to secure the long-term future and sustainability of the charity. The development of the site will invest in new facilities that create more opportunities for the residents living at Emmaus, as well as creating a historical place of interest for the people living, working and visiting Dover.

Debbie Stevenson, Community Manager at Emmaus Dover, said: ‘The exclusive event with Terry Waite CBE and Erwin James, ‘Fellow Captives in Conversation’ was a great success. It was interesting to hear the unique conversation with Terry and Erwin comparing their experiences of captivity, as well as discussing prison reform and homelessness.

We are so thankful to everyone who contributed to this event, from buying a ticket to local businesses sponsoring raffle prizes. The money raised will go towards our Building a Better Future fundraising appeal, which will help us to build a modern workshop for repairing donated furniture to sell in our shops, as well as refurbishing our existing workshop space to become a new warehouse, PAT testing area and much-needed storage.’

Find out more about Emmaus Dover and the Building a Better Future fundraising appeal.