The last year has, for many of us, been the most eventful and challenging of our lives. We have faced loneliness, isolation and anxiety; illness and bereavement; unemployment and unexpected financial worries. Even if Covid hasn’t directly impacted us, we have all been on an emotional rollercoaster of constantly changing regulations and our best laid plans being kiboshed – seesawing between new freedoms and setbacks, vaccine breakthroughs and virus variants, closed borders and limited social contact.
Whatever happens over the Summer with the Government’s roadmap to normality, I fear it is going to take a long time to process what we have been through and the emotional toll of it all.
As modern slavery activists, we need to acknowledge that many of our volunteers and keenest campaigners are exhausted. Much of the momentum we had built up has been lost. Support groups haven’t been able to meet, some victims have been pushed even further into the shadows and many awareness raising activities have had to be postponed.
For some of us, we will be chomping at the bit to get everything up and running again. We will feel impatient and passionate about making up for lost time. Others of us may feel like we have nothing to left to give. All these reactions are understandable given what we have been through.
If we are in a leadership role, we will need to be very careful how we navigate the next few months as so much of our work is dependent on the good will of people who volunteer their time and support so generously. We will want to inspire a renewed commitment to fighting modern slavery in our area but we will also need to be understanding towards people who do not feel they have the energy or capacity at the moment to join the cause.
More positively, this year has given many people the chance to reflect on their priorities and how they use their time. This could be the moment to challenge people to incorporate modern slavery activism into their new routines. Perhaps now is a good time to raise awareness of the volunteer opportunities in your area or organisation? What sort of gaps are you looking to fill? What skills do you need? How can people help support victims locally? In our newsletter this month, we have interviewed a volunteer with The Salvation Army – you may want to forward his story to people you know.
Lockdown has also forced us to consider new ways of doing things, particularly more creative ways of connecting with people. Are there things you have done in 2020/2021 that you would like to continue doing? For example, have virtual training courses enabled more people to find out about modern slavery than would usually manage to come to a face-to-face event? Have online committee meetings been a more efficient use of people’s time and eradicated travel time? How can we include online events going forward?
Planning for Anti- Slavery Day 2021 could be a good way to galvanise your team and community and give them something positive to look towards. It is far enough away to not be too daunting but near enough to provide a strong focus! We cannot wait to hear your plans and we have created two new films to help kickstart some ideas!