THE BLOG

Women's Work - Camilla Carr and Alla Little. Valuable Life Lessons From Kidnap, Torture And Abuse.

03/02/2014 14:15 GMT | Updated 04/04/2014 10:59 BST

This is the third in an occasional series called Women's Work. It's not about "glass ceilings", struggle, gender wars and all that. Just plain and simply it's about women who achieve.

If you spotted Camilla Carr and Alla Little in a café drinking lattés, chatting, giggling and sharing photos on their smartphones, you might think they were friends out shopping and catching up on old times.

You wouldn't think they were discussing their imminent talk to corporate bigwigs about How To Cope - when kidnapped, threatened with execution, mentally tortured, raped and treated like an animal.

Camilla and Alla are sisters. And they are two sides of the same coin.

Camilla and her partner Jon were kidnapped in Chechnya in 1997. Camilla suffered the sort of abuse women fear, but keep locked away.

Alla campaigned vociferously for their release and with her family and friends mounted a newsworthy national campaign.

They were both fighting, coping, despairing and hoping. Two and a half thousand miles apart.

The story has a happy ending - Camilla and Jon were eventually released - and an unlikely beginning - the sisters have "gone into business" together to offer invaluable training for those who want to travel to and work in hostile environments. The training encompasses hard-learned advice to the traveller as well as the families back home. Both have to cope.

Big business is sitting up and taking note of what they offer.

Key officials in the UK Government (which steadfastly commits to a "no ransom payment policy") has met with them.

Their work is being recognized internationally.

And it's important work, because not too far from our warm, cosy homes are extremely dangerous and hostile countries

"Although you can still find light in dark places", says Camilla, recalling her own coping strategies as a victim of kidnap and threat.

Reporters, engineers, medics, social workers, even military can now receive extraordinary help thanks to the advice that Camilla and Alla offer.

Within hours of release, Camilla and Jon landed at Brize Norton. Camilla was immediately pounced on by the media for her story. Upfront she decided to talk about the sexual abuse.

"I needed to" she explains. "Because I didn't want it to fester inside. Talking about it became part of the healing process".

Professional counselors and doctors, psychiatrists and, of course, the foreign office stayed close at hand.

But sooner than you or I could possibly believe, Camilla was back in Russia helping Peacebuilding UK. She still wanted to help despite her recent experiences.

In fact, Camilla was determined to bounce back almost from Day One. But it wasn't easy. It takes years to peel back the layers of trauma.

Faced with cancer and bouts of debilitating chemo she continued her work of giving people "coping strategies". She and Jon wrote a book about their experiences and soon Camilla was visiting prisons with the Forgiveness Project.

She reveals to offenders the victims' point of view and discusses with them alternative ways of dealing with conflict.

It's certainly not something everyone can do. But Camilla has been there, seen it all and can tell real stories. It is proving highly effective.

The world knows about Nelson Mandela and the forgiveness at the heart of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The world has been inspired by it.

Here is a tale of an individual practicing exactly the same thing, but at grass routes level, here in the UK.

Camilla smiles. " I remember being hugged by Archbishop Desmond Tutu once. It was a serious, knowing, meaningful hug".

Alla, a model and actress, joined Camilla in February 2012, brought together by the ex-hostage Terry Waite, who runs Hostage UK. Alla's talks offer valuable advice to the families back home.

Soon they were together in Lisbon at the 7th Annual Chief Security Summit and Roundtable.

When I met them, 2014 had kicked off already. They were speaking at a global industry event. Their diaries are filling up.

Camilla and Alla offer large global businesses a "human" dimension.

And they offer a few, broader life lessons at the same time.

Despite the ordeal for the kidnapped and their families back home they do not discourage travel to hostile environments.

Their message is: by all means travel to dangerous and difficult places, but don't treat it as "an adventure".

Ask yourself what's motivating you. Then if your motivations are genuine, put your heart into it.

Understand the wider context of what your journey may mean to your families, friends and colleagues.

It's a lesson for any young person entering the world of work. And it's a lesson for business in general.

Employees are people. They live fully fleshed out three-dimensional lives. The decisions that are made for them affect not just them.

And if hostility and danger is on the cards, however large, small, imminent or far away, get some serious training.

From Camilla and Alla.