By Lewis Davies
I was first introduced to the fact of human trafficking at the age of 17. It wasn’t in a “there are slaves in the world” awareness campaign, instead I was invited by my sister to help an amazing organisation called CCAT (Croydon Community Against Trafficking) try to locate victims of trafficking in our neighbourhood. It was shocking work.
My thinking quickly transformed from “There are slaves in Croydon?” to “There are slaves in Croydon!!”, and there still are, in Kingston too, and all over London and the U.K. Since then I have been volunteering and working in the anti-trafficking world trying my best to add weight to the fight. For the past few years that has involved me trying to specifically utilise the church.
Why the church? Well, I am a Christian and I believe in the church and all that it is and can be, but I find a quicker and clearer way to have this conversation is by asking why not?
Even if we only use an analytical lens, the church is an enormous group of people spread across all of society’s stratas, with a varied skill set, who are generous with time and money. What a great resource! Not only that but they feel inspired, perhaps even compelled, by their faith to act against injustices such as slavery.
That being said I have had countless conversations which essential boil down to “I want to fight trafficking BUT…
“…I don’t know how” “…I don’t have the time” “…I don’t have the skills” “…I can’t make a difference”
…and when people say this I find it completely understandable. When we talk about slavery and the statistics, the problem can quickly become intimidating to the point of paralysis. I get it and I’ve been there. The truth is, no one knows exactly how to completely tackle slavery. We’re all pushed for time and no one has the perfect skill set to take it all on – but what I hope to encourage you to do, is give what you can.
From the work that I have done I know that local people, properly equipped, can fight modern day slavery in their local neighbourhoods and boroughs.
Let me tell you a story that happened to someone I know in our area:
Iris was a hair dresser and knew a little bit about human trafficking and some of the signs to look out for. One day a man and women came to her salon, the women wouldn’t speak at all and was clearly under the influence of something. The man was giving instructions to drastically change the women's appearance, was being aggressive and clearly controlling her.
Iris wasn’t certain about what was happening but had a suspicion and was brave enough to call the police. Plain clothes officers arrived and arrested the male and social services came to help the female. On the way out she looked at Iris and speaking for the first time, said “Thank you”. Police came later to explain to Iris she had help to stop a case of “illegal immigration”. The words human trafficking were never explicitly used, but, speaking to Iris, the hallmarks were obviously present, and it was highly likely that Iris had just helped this young lady to escape being trafficked.
This is what one person with the right knowledge can do.
Imagine if all of us knew what to look out for, imagine if all of us were aware. That would be a community hostile to traffickers, a community that would build hope and security for those in trouble.
So… what can you do?
Learn about the issues and what to look out for, research what legal campaigns are being organised and back them, shop ethically, raise money or volunteer to one of the dozens of amazing charities out there, tell your friends and have a conversation, helping people to understand that this is happening on our watch and we can do something about it – and that is just a really short list. It is difficult to feel like we are making a difference when we don’t see the people that we help but Iris’ story shows what can be done. Please take a moment to think about the impact of what happened when Iris made the call. It is well worth our time making sure that each of us are informed about this issue.
As for what I am doing; I’m working with a team of good friends on something called Restore, and I’m really excited about it. Its aim is to provide a toolkit and a template, for churches to use to fight modern day slavery in there local neighbourhoods. It starts with a prayer group and helps to build the churches capacity in stages, to then educate
themselves, their community, raise funds, connect with people vulnerable to trafficking, all the way through to actively looking for people currently enslaved and helping them get free. I wish it was in its final form and I could say ‘Volunteer Today!” but it's not quite there just yet.
The pertinent thing to remember is that slavery is out there in our communities today, but so are you, and you can make a difference… Don’t be intimidated by the size of the issue, take small steps on this journey, you never know where it may lead you, or like Iris, who you might meet.
Image if all of us were aware and knew what to look out for…
About the author: Hi! My name’s Lewis and I’ve been around the world of “anti-trafficking” for some years now. That’s my fiancé with me in the pic. I have a day-job, but anti-trafficking work is my passion. Although I’m far from a pro in this sphere I hope this (my first ever!) blog post is encouraging and helpful to you on your journey. Most importantly I want you to realise that one person can make a difference – they really can!