A mother whose young daughter went missing nine years ago during a holiday in Zimbabwe has spoken of her anguish.
Terri Maynard, 32, last saw her then-three-year-old daughter Claire in 2004 and does not know if she is alive or dead.
The heartbroken mother believes her daughter’s whereabouts are being hidden by the Zimbabwean authorities which inspired her to set up a human rights group in Crawley.
Terri, of Maidenbower, said: “I’ve no idea where she is and I’ve no way of knowing. I’ve tried to get my family to find out but for fear of reprisals they cannot do anything. I’ve tried everything. It’s really hard but I have to fight on.”
She said the Zimbabwean authorities had intimidated her family as a result of her search.
The pain of losing Claire has inspired Terri to set up a Crawley branch of Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe, which held its first meeting on Saturday (January 26) at St Barnabas Hall, Worth Road.
Terri, who has lived in Crawley since 2005 and has a young son, said: “I’ve been very depressed and I cry a lot but you can only cry so much.
“It hurts to talk about it and think about it. But it helps to help others because I understand what they are feeling and thinking.”
A major challenge is encouraging people to talk about their experiences, trainee hairdresser Terri said.
She added: “I cannot imagine how people cope with the worst atrocities. In Crawley there are lots of Zimbabweans who won’t speak out because it’s part of our culture to keep quiet. You have to say to them, ‘You’re in England now, you do have rights, you can get help’.
“It will take time for people to gain confidence. It took me years to be able to talk about this. My family in Zimbabwe have had late-night visit from officials because I was looking for my daughter.
“They said ‘it’s not worth it, she will find you when she’s older’. But I haven’t stopped trying. I’ve got to have faith, that’s all I have.”
The meeting was attended by Crawley Black History chair Terence Mutongerwa and Cllr Lenny Walker, member responsible for leisure and culture.