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Victoria's Story

At the Sophie Hayes Foundation, we believe in centering survivors and uplifting their voices. Not only does this empower survivors to be agents of their own journeys to sustainable freedom, but it also allows others to connect with the critical issues of modern slavery and human trafficking on a deeper emotional level. Today, we share the story of one of our incredible participants, *Victoria, in her own words.

*Participant's name has been changed to retain their privacy.


I was born and grew up in Cameroon, I was brought to the UK when I was about 15 years old.

That’s a very difficult part of my story and I have gone past that now. And I know that I am now a stronger person too. What happened was that I was not able to finish secondary school because my family simply did not have the money for it. My mum and dad really struggled to makes ends meet for our family.  


It was then that I was told by my mum that there might be an opportunity for me.

My mum had been introduced to someone by a family friend. This new woman that my mum was introduced to was a Cameroonian living in the UK who was back for a visit, and she spoke to my mum about me going back to the UK with her. My mum and I met with this lady and she told my mum that she would have nothing to worry about, that she would take care of me in the UK and would make sure that all my needs and education would be taken care of. In exchange, I had to help her look after her children. She assured my mum that she would make sure that I attained the highest level of education possible in the UK.  


All these promises that she made my mum were never met.

When I got to the UK I looked after her children, did all the cleaning and cooking in her house from morning to late at night. I was never paid or provided with basic amenities for my own hygiene and wellbeing, little less a continuation of my education as had been promised to my mother and I back in Cameroon.  


After 7 years, she threw me out of her house and told me that I had to find my own way. I moved in with a friend I had met through the lady that had brought me to the UK. I then tried to find my own way from one house to another, one job to another. It was a long and difficult journey. After everything that I’ve been through, I feel like I can face anything in life.  


I joined the Sophie Hayes Foundation (SHF) Employability Programme (EP) in October 2022.

As part of the programme, I was able to meet different women. All though they were like me, where we had all gone through similar challenges, they all had different views and stories and hearing about these during our sessions together was something that really helped me. We all came with a spirit to learn where no one felt they were better than anyone else. I felt like I was equal to everyone else in the programme with me and I learnt so much from them.  


When I first joined the programme, I struggled to get used to all the reading again and learning to write things out using my own words. I’ve been out of school for such a long time, and my brain had to get used to it again. But I’m doing a lot better at it now. This is what I had wanted for myself, to change my life to be better, and it is starting to happen for me.  


I am now working on my CV and Cover Letter during the EP sessions, when that is done, I will sign up for the Work Placement in Module 3. I’m really looking forward to that because its going to help me a lot. I’m also doing an online English course to help improve my language skills.  


I have two children, a 6 and a 4-year-old who I care for.

Childcare can often limit the kinds of things that I get involved in, especially the in-person sessions or events that will be useful for me. I often get emails from SHF about workshops or training in London which I would love to attend but it's difficult with two young ones to care for. So, the fact that SHF EP sessions are online really works for me and I can attend the sessions without the hassle of arranging or paying for childcare. The provision of the free iPad as well has really helped me out a lot, I don’t think I will be able to take part in the sessions if not for that. My older one normally plays on my phone while I attend the session. This keeps him occupied and it's just easier to do the session and read things on a bigger screen as opposed to just using my own phone.  

I am currently waiting for a decision from the Home Office on my immigration status so I am hoping that something good will come out of it.

It will be nice to hear some good news for once. That was such a difficult time in my life and it took a toll on me mentally, physically and emotionally. I have been diagnosed with depression and high blood pressure and I am on medication to help me deal with these illnesses.  My mum and dad have both passed away now, so there is nothing for me back to in Cameroon. I have gone past that part of my life now and I’m only looking forward to a future for me and my children. 


We are so honoured to share Victoria's words with you, and we deeply appreciate her contributing such a beautiful and insightful illustration of her journey.

You can help support the sustainable freedom of survivors like Victoria by using the link below to contribute to our Programme. Your donation provides funding for the activities and services described by Victoria in her story. Every £ changes lives.

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