Restoring the lives of trafficked women
There are more slaves in 2016 than ever before in history - and a Devon charity is working with victims to ensure they can live an independent life again. Kira Taylor finds out more
Restore is a Christian charity focused on one of the key weaknesses in the fight against human trafficking – the long-term support for women rescued from slavery.
Survivors are referred to the charity after the period of government funded support ends, which is currently only 45 days and not nearly enough for a full recovery. 'Survivors are still only coming to terms with what has happened to them,' said the charity's Rachel Smith, 'and in many cases have not even begun to heal.
'This means survivors are left unsure of where they will live and how to support themselves, which often increases their anxiety and trauma levels, already high after what they have gone through. They are often isolated in a foreign country, needing someone to stand with them and put them in contact with trauma recovery and life skills services.'
Meeting these needs was why Restore came about. Its founder Faye Gould researched human trafficking and discovered that long-term support for survivors was the area most lacking.
Many were becoming homeless or even re-trafficked shortly after being rescued.
'Survivors of human trafficking have been subject to severe abuse and often suffer from trauma as a result; they need support in regaining confidence to live an independent life again,' said Rachel. 'Recovering from trauma is a process which can take many months, and sometimes years.'
Restore offers a safe place to recover for an extra year after that initial government support. The survivors live together with security, support, and access to key life skills. Restore then works with survivors to find accommodation for them to move on. Its mission is Rebuilding the life intended for survivors of human trafficking.
'Faye believes that every woman has a God-given purpose and wanted to give survivors the opportunity to pursue their dreams regardless of their past experiences,' said Rachel. 'Restore was set up to give women the opportunity to rebuild the life intended in a safe place with essential support.'
The Global Slavery Index estimates that in 2016, 45.8 million people are in some form of modern slavery in 167 countries, including as many as 13,000 in the UK. Often they have had their ID taken off them – in effect, causing them to be illegal immigrants. Day to day places may be involved, including nail bars and car washes. There are signs to spot if someone is a victim of human trafficking. For instance, if they seem anxious, ill-clothed or underfed.
The charity has a system of befrienders, who spend time with the women and teach them skills such as knitting or simply spend time with them. These are essential and help survivors build positive relationships.
'Since coming to Restore, I have a plan for my future,' said one survivors. 'I feel safe here. My health is better and I sleep better here. I am happy and I feel more confident.'
Restore welcomes survivors from any spiritual backgrounds, but many of the women chose to attend a local church on Sunday and are involved in church activities throughout the week. In the house, there is a bookshelf with Christian books to give the opportunity for the survivors to learn about Jesus.
'Many [of the survivors] speak of how their faith in God has given them the strength to keep going. One of the women recently got baptised and said that God has given her a brand new life. It has been a privilege to see new joy and hope that God has brought to the survivors in the house,' said Rachel.
Restore has recently expanded to a four-bedroom house, and is looking to support more women and support more groups affected by modern slavery. To keep up to date, sign up to the newsletter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org