The community is showing the love following the rescue of a 20-year-old Amherst woman from her captors in Ghana early Tuesday morning.
Bailey Chitty and Lauren Tilley were freed by special forces from the military in Ghana in the early morning hours. They had been kidnapped on June 4 while volunteering with Youth Challenge International.
“It’s a great day with capital letters,” ARHS principal Aaron Stubbert said. “We continued to offer our silent support the family and to her two younger brothers who were here at the school.”
Chitty, he said, was admired by her fellow students and staff while at ARHS and was involved in numerous organizations. Everyone at the school was breathing a huge sigh relief on Tuesday.
“She was very involved in everything in the school and she was well liked by staff and students. She won the Lt. Govenor’s award in Grade 11, was active in the band and the Me to We Program,” he said.
Stubbert said the school respected the family’s wishes to keep any discussion out of social media, and staff did what it could to support the family any way it could and to help her brothers and other students who were thinking of the family.
During her captivity, there was a quiet campaign throughout the community called Love Wins and after her rescue numerous people were taking to social media to post those words to express their relief and joy at her rescue.
“It’s something her mother, Christina, did to reinforce the idea of positive thoughts and share the love with everybody. Maybe some of that love everyone shares would go toward her safe return,” Stubbert said.
Ghana’s information ministry said the rescue operation took place in the south-central Ashanti region. YCI said on its website both women were receiving getting support from professionals and were not physically hurt.
"The parents of both young women have been in contact with their daughters and at this time wish to express their extreme gratitude to the Ghanaian police, the Ghanaian government and the Canadian government for all their support and actions throughout this extremely difficult time," Youth Challenge International said on its website.
A news site, The Ghana Report, said four Nigerians and six Ghanaians were arrested after a short gun battle in the early morning hours of Wednesday.
Colleen Dowe, a family friend, said she’s amazed by how the community responded by not going to social media to talk about the abduction out of fear it could lead to the two women being harmed by their kidnappers.
She can’t comprehend what the family and Chitty’s friends have been going through the last eight days.
“The thought of anybody having to go through that is unbelievable. I lost sleep over it. I cannot imagine how unbearable it was,” she said. “I am not religious, but I’m spiritual. This was one of the very few times I can remember not being able to do anything but pray and think good thoughts because you couldn’t call her. It was for the love of a community member that everyone rallied. The community made me very proud.”
When she heard she was released, Dowe said she couldn’t think of words to say other than having an overwhelming feeling of joy and relief.
“She was the first babysitter for my grandkids and I absolutely think the world of her. I loved bumping into her and updating each other on our lives.”
"Our communities collective prayers have been answered. I have been crying with gratitude off and on all day since 7:02am when Bailey's Mom confirmed by text that the news article was true stating that Bailey and her friend Lauren were rescued and are safe.
Cumberland North MLA Elizabeth Smith-McCrossin said Bailey’s mother posted on Facebook early Tuesday that “Love Won” and it’s a message that will never be forgotten.
“The last seven days have been a nightmare for the Chitty family,” the MLA said. “The family set the tone early on and chose to be hopeful and faithful. They asked our community to collectively pray for Bailey's safe release. Everyone was asked to stay off of social media so the kidnappers had no other contacts. Everyone respected the family and the officials planning their rescue by staying off of social media.”
She said this had to be challenging as many people are used to communicating through Instagram and Facebook.
“Everyone wanted Bailey to come home safely and are overjoyed with this positive outcome," she said, adding anything the family needs upon Bailey’s return will be provided by the community.