In April 1997-98 Camilla Carr and Jon James set off as volunteers in a GBP500 Lada stacked high with toys, games, footballs, paints and a parachute. Their destination was Chechnya and their aim was to work with children who had been traumatised by war. After working for two months setting up and teaching in a rehabilitation centre and watching the children begin to smile and play again, they were kidnapped by Chechen guerrillas. There followed fourteen months of incarceration in homes that varied from a concrete box with no natural light or fresh air, to a pink trompe la oeil bedroom via a sauna and various cellars. They experienced everything from rape and mental torture to moments of compassion and kindness. They survived by using tools such as tai chi, yoga, meditation and humour; and through creating a dialogue with their captors, looking beneath their masks of fear and anger to reach the small flame of love and laughter unquenched by the demonising nature of war.
Camilla Carr and Jonathan James who married after their release and return to Britain are active participants in The Forgiveness Project, a touring exhibition and workshop which enables those who have been either victims or perpetrators of violence tell their stories and rebuild their lives. They live in Devon.