The last nine months have been heartbreakingly difficult for many of the women we support. Their resilience and personal strength continues to inspire me, but the scale of what they are dealing with every day is enormous. Being told to stay inside and concerns over how to access basic supplies are often a trigger to past experiences of slavery and coercion for many women. We’ve been responding to this by providing increased emotional support and dropping off emergency food parcels.
On top of this, many of the women I work with are struggling with feelings of isolation, cut off from their support networks and opportunities to aid their recovery. Those that have children with them have struggled to support home learning during the first lockdown and will now be faced with that daunting prospect again.
As a team we have been working with generous supporters to get smartphones and internet access to women so they can continue with online learning and maintain relationships. However, this is a huge job and many still do not have access to technology that we all take for granted.
The women I work with rely enormously on foodbanks and donations and very carefully budget their small allowance. However, the pandemic has meant that, at times, the only items left on shelves are very expensive. In the first lockdown, for example, we had cases of women travelling to a supermarket that didn’t have nappies and then not being able to afford to pay for an additional trip to another supermarket. It’s also been a much bigger task to support the many pregnant women we work with to access cots, prams and baby essentials that we normally sourced through local charities.
It is a frightening time. We know that trafficking will not stop. Economic hardship will increase the vulnerabilities of the people we support and we are concerned about the growing risk of re-exploitation. However, we also remain hopeful that the wider community will continue to work in partnership with us. Despite the pandemic, we are determined to work with survivors of modern slavery and help them to build the futures they dream of and deserve.
Alison Logier, Service Manager at Hestia, recently took part in the Women in the Shadows film shoot. We are thankful for her involvement and are excited about what we can learn from her experience of supporting victims and the crucial work of Hestia.