Emmaus UK president, Sir Terry Waite, has been appointed Knight Commander of the Order of St Michael and St George (KCMG) for his services to charity.

HM The King’s first Official Birthday Honours List was announced on 16 June 2023, marking the incredible public service of individuals from across the UK. Sir Terry’s award recognises his charity work with Emmaus UK and Hostage International.

Speaking about his honour, Sir Terry described it as a “peak” achievement. He said: “It really is a big surprise. I had no idea that this was coming up.

“And, of course, whenever this sort of award is given, I recognise that there are a lot of people to whom one shares that award with, particularly with Hostage International and Emmaus. They have worked incredibly hard and still do over the years to make those organisations what they are today. I’m just a figurehead, really.”

Insight and empathy

Sir Terry became president of Emmaus UK shortly after his release from captivity in 1991. He had spent 1763 days in captivity after being kidnapped by terrorists while trying to negotiate the release of hostages. He spent the first four years in solitary confinement.

Terry’s experience gave him a great insight into the misery, isolation, fear, boredom and despair that many homeless people go through.

Since his release, he has worked tirelessly to support the Emmaus movement in the UK. His empathy with those who have experienced homelessness and social exclusion makes him a much-loved president.

Despite joking that he is “getting on” at 84, Sir Terry remains actively involved in Emmaus’s work across the UK. In January 2023, he attended the launch of Emmaus Cambridge’s new Solohaus Homes. In October 2022, he joined Emmaus Mossley’s 25th anniversary celebrations, held a fundraising evening with Emmaus Suffolk and attended Emmaus Hastings & Rother’s open day. He also attended the Emmaus national assembly and will join Emmaus Norfolk & Waveney’s Summer Solidarity Picnic in July 2023.

Sir Terry Waite attending Emmaus Mossley's 25th anniversary celebration

A significant honour

The KCMG honour recognises service in a foreign country or in relation to foreign and Commonwealth affairs, such as the work of diplomats overseas.

Sir Terry said: “It is a very significant honour and I’m really amazed that I’ve got it. I’m getting on but I’m still working at 84 now. I’m still very active. I suppose it’s a peak, really. I was given an MBE many years ago and then I got a CBE several years afterwards. Now this is the next one up, so to speak.

“I think I’ve been very fortunate to get this because there are many other people who are deserving of honours who don’t get mentioned.”

Charlotte Talbot, CEO of Emmaus UK, said: “We would like to extend our sincere congratulations to Sir Terry on this prestigious award. He is a valued part of Emmaus and we are grateful for everything he does to support our work. Everyone at Emmaus UK is very proud of his achievement.”