An incredible story of survival

Stephen McGowan was 36 years old and fulfilling a lifelong dream of biking through Africa when he was kidnapped by Al-Qaeda from Timbuktu, along with a Swedish and a Dutch national. Just short of six years later, he was released. On 2 October, Chartered Wealth Solutions hosted this remarkable young man, whose tale of courage and endurance kept the audience spellbound.

While very rare videos would be released, showing Stephen and his fellow captives still alive, his family had no idea where he was, nor indeed how he was faring emotionally, physically and psychologically.

The truth was that he was being kept deep in the Sahara, hidden from French surveillance planes and drones. Communication with the world beyond was limited, then completely cut off when French military forces showed up in Mali.

Stephen’s story became even more harrowing as he shared of how he learned to protect himself from extreme natural elements, while daily dreading a violent end at the hands of his captors.

Living outdoors, Stephen learned a range of survival skills (including how to dig for water and skin a gazelle) but keeping hope and the will to survive alive were the real challenges. He shared with the Chartered audience how he maintained sanity, with a positive attitude, gratitude and relinquishing what you can’t control as crucial mindsets.

He also stuck to a daily physical exercise regime, and learnt to speak and read Arabic, and recite from the Qur’an.

Stephen was released end July 2017 and is adapting to life back home in South Africa with his family. Chartered guests enthusiastically asked questions, in awe of Stephen’s bravery in sharing his story and inspired to face life’s hurdles with the same courage.

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