Hannah is part of the Bridge Church family and has been a volunteer for Embrace. Hannah took some time to answer some questions for us...
Embrace is a project created out of Red Community to practically care for survivors of human trafficking through befriending and providing financial support. Lauren Medlicott coordinates the befriending and training sessions for volunteers. She has kindly shared some of the latest figures about the work Embrace has done.
“Since the project started, we have spent £28,101 supporting survivors: for course fees, health treatment, dental treatment, clothing, travel costs, food, housing, technology (tablets, laptops, wifi, phones), uniforms, hobbies, furniture, Christmas presents and household necessities.
There are currently 10 friendships running. We have trained 56 befrienders since the project started. There have been 64 friendships since the start of the project, including the current ones. (Some befrienders have volunteered for further friendships). Most friendships spanned the entire year (which is how long people sign up to). After this time, the befriender and friend can decide to continue their friendship without the input from Embrace, although sometimes people move away or decide to keep contact to the year.”
In my experience, befriending involves doing fun and relaxing things together - going for walks, popping to cafes, going to the cinema, visiting the beach, having ice creams together, window shopping (or actual shopping!) and the occasional day trip.
"What caused you to get involved?"
I got involved because I'd heard a bit about modern day slavery and been really moved by some of the testimonies of survivors, and felt a bit of a “nudge” to somehow meet and support some of the women who had been through such a terrible experience. A friend told me about the befriending service and I went along to a talk held by the Red Community where someone spoke about the work that Embrace does.
I'm not someone that would ordinarily stand at the front of a room, or lead Sunday school, but I do love making friends. There are some very loving and caring friends in my life and they have shown me what it is to be loyal, patient, forgiving and selfless. Part of me wanted to show another person what it can be like to belong, to feel valued and loved, to feel safe...I know how important friendship has been to me, and how significant my friends have been in my life and I wanted to share this with someone who might never have had that chance. It takes a lot to trust people, and after experiencing something traumatic like trafficking, it is easy to see why someone might become isolated and lonely if the other option is making yourself vulnerable in getting to know someone.
"How did the Embrace team help you to prepare?"
In terms of relevant experience - being a friend and having friends was a good starting point! But this was also a great chance to meet someone new, with a completely different life experience, I've learnt a lot from my friend. As a doctor, we have regular safeguarding and child protection training but modern day slavery has only come to the fore in the past few years. It wasn't mentioned in my medical school training, but I learnt about it through an event at a local church. Being part of Embrace has helped me as a doctor to better understand people who might have been through similar experiences, how to support them and signpost them to help. The team were really helpful in preparing me to be a befriender -
As part of the process, you are asked to fill in a fairly detailed questionnaire so you can get "matched" with a friend who perhaps has some overlapping interests.
You then have a training day to attend where you do some safeguarding training, learn more about modern day slavery, go through some scenarios and how to handle them and get to ask plenty of questions.
The official befriending period is 1 year and each time you meet your friend, you are asked to fill some case-notes which only Lauren can see. She will touch base with you each month, but also happy to chat in the interim either by email or phone.
When I first met my friend, Lauren and I went together to meet my friend and her support worker in a café. It helped to talk through some ground rules and whilst it might sound a bit strange, I think it protects both sides from feeling too vulnerable.
Generally the advice is to meet in public places, to try and avoid doing lots of pricey activities and to basically just hang out and do fun things. My friend and I decided to carry on meeting up after our official year ended, now we're friends - just without the formalities!
"What have been some of the highlights of this experience for you?"
I've seen my befriendee grow from being a quiet and shy young woman to a very bubbly, confident & funny lady! During our friendship, we have been through some tough patches together & it has been a privilege to be a true friend to such a special person- we were able to celebrate her getting her asylum seeker status, to her getting a job and growing in confidence... and even getting confident enough to tease me!
"If someone reading this is interested in getting involved what could be a good next step?"
For anyone interested in finding out more about Embrace - I'd encourage you to go for it! Lauren Medlicott is the co-ordinator and is fantastic. You can email her on email@example.com
"How can we be praying for the work of Embrace?"
I asked Lauren how we can best support the work at Embrace and she has asked for prayers for more befrienders and for possible expansion to North Wales. In her words, “We need befrienders! That's the most important point!”
You can find out more about Embrace by clicking HERE or by getting in touch with Hannah / Owain