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Hestia needs you!

22nd February 2024 | From our team

Modern slavery charity seeks to launch a telephone befriender service with the help of volunteers from The Clewer Initiative network

The Clewer Initiative

Hestia has spent the last 50 years supporting adults and children in crisis and is the main organisation supporting victims of modern slavery in London.

Some of the 2,000 survivors of modern slavery it supports each year are isolated and lonely, often fearful of meeting new people. They can experience barriers such as language, immigration status or severe physical or mental health issues which prevent them from accessing crucial support.

One way in which Hestia is seeking to address this is by introducing a new befriender service, specifically for survivors of modern slavery. Hestia has successfully introduced befriender services in other areas of its work so is now looking to replicate this for survivors of modern slavery. The hope is that a telephone befriender service will help reduce feelings of loneliness and encourage service users to re-engage in their communities and build trusting relationships.

Hestia approached Caroline Virgo, the director of The Clewer Initiative, for help in recruiting 30 volunteers to become telephone befrienders.

Caroline explains: “Often when I speak about modern slavery, people want to know how they can help and what volunteer opportunities exist. The wonderful thing about Hestia’s new telephone befriender service is that you don’t have to live in London to be able to volunteer. Hestia has a proven track record running befriender services for vulnerable people so volunteers will be guaranteed robust training and ongoing support. Initially Hestia is only making this appeal through The Clewer Initiative network so it is a concrete way in which we can make a difference and help provide victim care and support. I would urge anyone with a desire to provide support for a potential victim of modern slavery to get in touch with Hestia.”

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Natasha Ventour, Hestia’s volunteering co-ordinator, shares the impact the befriender services have already had: “Our befriender services have made a significant difference. We have seen service users grow in confidence and self-esteem and begin to re-engage in the community. Our volunteers have also grown through the experience, gaining new skills and confidence and for some, it has opened up a whole new world of volunteering and employment opportunities. The telephone befriender role has been a good first step for people keen to reach out and care for vulnerable people in our society.”

Rebecca Helme, Innovations Manager for the Modern Slavery Response Team at Hestia, concludes: "Sadly, there is an uncertain atmosphere at the moment for survivors of modern slavery. Sometimes this means our service users are hesitant to access the support they desperately need. We think the telephone befriender service could be a crucial way in which we bridge the gap as we hope our service users will know that these volunteers are on their side and not representing a statutory or official body. It is more important than ever."


  • What is a telephone befriender?

A telephone befriender is someone who calls a Hestia service user / modern slavery survivor for one hour, once a week, to provide a listening ear and have a friendly chat. The conversation will enable the befriender to check on the wellbeing of the service user and provide an opportunity for conversation and social connection. The role is very clearly defined – it is not replacing the support worker who carries the formal responsibility for caring for the service user and signposting support. The volunteer is simply a friend at the end of the phone.

  • Is any paperwork or admin involved?

The volunteer writes a short summary of each call.

  • What support is available for the volunteer?

Once we have received an application, there is a short volunteer process that includes a DBS criminal record check and references. After that, the volunteer will be asked to participate in some safeguarding and modern slavery training via our e-learning portal. They will then have an introduction to the role with the volunteer supervisor.

The volunteer supervisor is always available to chat with or receive reassurance. If the befriender believes the service user needs any other support, such as additional food or medication, this can be fed back to the supervisor who will triage the need.

  • What skills does a volunteer need?
  1. Good communication and active listening skills
  2. Empathy – care and compassion for vulnerable people
  3. Time – one hour a week
  4. Able to maintain strict confidentiality and follow professional boundaries
  5. To be consistent in attendance
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  • How can someone become a befriender?

Email , Hestia’s volunteering co-ordinator, to discuss next steps.

Let's help Hestia reach its target of recruiting 30 telephone befrienders!

For more information about other volunteering opportunities at Hestia and what it is like to be a volunteer, visit

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