How we started
Most every organization has its small steps beginnings, Voice of Hope is no exception. As the story of how our journey started is explained below, it is nothing short of complete amazement to the whole team, that we have grown from ‘what can we do’, to a growing volunteer group, who together raise finance in order organize awareness courses, support those who help in the recovery process of victims, chaperone victims to safe houses and most importantly, work to build strong relationships with organizations who are also taking a strong stand to see an end to modern slavery/human trafficking – it is a true saying, ‘we are stronger together’.
How it all started.
Approaching my third year at Staffordshire University in 2011, the search for a subject to base my dissertation on question came unexpectedly whilst listening to the BBC News; there was the report of preparations up and down the country for celebrations commemorating the abolition of the slave trade and in the very same news programme, a report of twenty-four men found suspected of being held against their will during a raid at a travellers’ site Bedfordshire. Four men and a woman were arrested on suspicion of committing slavery offences.
I was immediately both intrigued and confused at such a contradiction, how can there be celebrations commemorating the abolition of slavery and men found in virtual slavery? My initial thought was, ‘this is an argument that could make for good research, finally I’ve found my dissertation question; does slavery exist in the UK?’
As I began to research the subject of slavery, it became apparent that despite all the Law’s, Policies and Human Rights in place post the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act of 1807 to classify slavery as illegal, slavery is still a present day reality, one of the only things that has changed is its name.
The 21st Century redefined name of slavery today is Human Trafficking, the movement of people for the purpose of exploitation.
In research both the terms Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery are found and they can indeed be interchangeable terms but as The Global Index for Slavery say, ‘No matter what terminology we use, the act of enslaving people has not stopped,’ on the contrary, Human Trafficking is one of the fastest growing organized crimes in our world today.
When I started researching this social atrocity in 2011, there were estimated to be over 27 million enslaved men, women and children in our world today, stripped of their rights and freedoms, devalued and treated as mere commodities. As I write this article, there are over 36 million enslaved in this social horror.
Well, I finished University in June 2012, some months later I was out having coffee with a friend who said she had seen an article in the local paper about human trafficking in Stoke on Trent, ‘do you think its happening here’, she said. My only answer was, ‘research tells us its happening everywhere’. ‘Have you thought of researching this in Stoke’, she asked, I paused and said, ‘no’ but asking myself, ‘why not!’.
So from November 2012 till the around 2014, I started knocking on doors of vulnerable groups, meeting the managers and organizers. I held a forum with individuals from these groups: salvation army, cab, star, police, brighter futures, lecturers from Staffordshire University, refugee groups, local councillors and more. I presented a 6/7 minute presentation on human trafficking/modern slavery, and asked if they would share if they had seen any characteristics of trafficking within their groups. The atmosphere in the room had completely changed, ‘Oh no, what have I done – I’ve totally depressed everyone’. It wasn’t depression, it was the reality that this issue is here, it just wasn’t recognised. Now what do I do? I knew we couldn’t do nothing, we had to do something.
Well, along with two other ladies I said ‘if we were going to raise our voice to raise a social conscience of this issue, lets do this with a name and make a sound that we are here’. So, we called ourselves, Voice of Hope and launched a 21 century modern abolition group specifically to raise awareness in Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire, in January 2015.
That is simply how we started, as William Wilberforce said over 200 years ago, ‘you may choose to look the other way but you can never again say you did not know’, we couldn’t look the other way, and so we set off on our journey….