Roll back a few years to 2013, our family based all over the world decide to have a holiday in Thailand Phuket.
We all arrive and spend 10 days making the most of the holiday and time together. But this was marred with the constant awareness of exploitation, particularly the sex industry side of Thailand. Seeing the many brothels, strip-clubs and general attitude to sexuality and prostitution. We all were shocked at how blatant and sinister it all was and how blurred and deluded many people perceived this to be. Many general conversations either with friends, work colleagues or just the general news and media was in different tangents, completely for it or vehemently against it.
Hence, my wife and I became interested in how innocent people were exploited for others pleasure and after watching movies like Eden (2012) and other documentaries we wanted to help the victims of this evil world of human trafficking. There were many charities that are on the forefront of attacking it physically with force in tactical crack-downs, government policy, general awareness in media and so on. We tried to see how we could help the victims more specifically as they often were considered numbers or forgotten between the battle for demand and prevention, what about the here after when they are freed and no longer the victim but a survivor?
Roll on a few years, it’s 2016 London UK, a good friend was helping out at a charity supporting survivors of human trafficking, by doing some design work for free as and when needed. As he was leaving the UK, he asked if I was interested in helping as we were still trying to find a charity we could support.
At the time there were a few cases in the media about how some government officials had set-up a house where they could exploit innocent children in the 80’s and 90’s and this was actually close to where we lived! We were shocked and wondered, how easily these things could happen in our neighborhood and we would be none the wiser.
As London is very busy and millions of people coexist in the same space, trains, tubes, buses, etc. yet we would not even know if the person 5 cm away from us, was being trafficked across London into a dark and seedy world whilst we casually sip a latte. Obliviously thumbing through social media not even clocking our environment let alone someone desperate, an inch away. This all being said…
A few months later, I bumped into Lorraine, who at the time worked with the homeless and another charity called The Sophie Hayes Foundation. An organisation helping survivors of human trafficking and focused on the extended support. Lorraine, explained how SHF focuses on the extended support, training, personal growth and holistic care, workshops, etc. and if we were keen we should come to the SHF meetup in London where anyone was welcome.
Weeks later, we were at the meetup, ladies from all walks of life, experiences, vocations and with one core objective of supporting the survivors. Though I was one of few men involved, it was great seeing strong woman who were mothers, students, lawyers, sisters, etc. All keen and galvanised to give their support for the survivors that SHF helped.
My wife Michelle and I were involved in the awareness team, where I could provide creative design support as needed, and Michelle was able to attend workshops and actually work directly with survivors. We have been apart of SHF where and when we could. From helping out at the JAM event, moving tables, clearing glasses, etc. Or standing at the Lush Oxford street store, explaining to the general public what SHF was all about. And Michelle with facilitating workshops and training that directly impacted the lives of survivors.
In ending, the SHF team has grown, members come and go, new locations across the UK are being introduced and more lives are being impacted and changed. The need for support is always evident, when considering whether you should or if you could. Know that another pair of hands no matter the skill or experience can always be used and appreciated as everyone is unique and volunteer different attributes. You might have the exact skills as a few of the team members, but do you all have same schedules, life expectations, objectives, etc.
Go to a meetup, bring a friend if you would like some moral support, meet the other fascinating people and help change numbers and statistics into names and personalities.