Cara* was Trafficked for 6 years from the age of 13, she found that writing poetry was a way to find release from some of her traumatic experiences.
They are just 4 ordinary office walls but what’s created inside them is far from ordinary…
31 adults and 24 children and more are massively impacted by the work that goes on in the Snowdrop office every day. This is their place. Their place to feel safe & connected. Their place to feel accepted. Their place to be whatever they need to be to get through that day. Our office provides so many things, from community activities, to counselling, to meetings with caseworkers or simply just a place to relax on the sofas.
Each week brings new opportunities; A sewing class to learn creative skills. A dance class to unwind and have some fun. A toddler group of games and activities for the mums and babies. An English class to help learn a new language for their future. The office is a space for our clients to stay connected and having something to look forward to each week. We also have therapeutic counselling every Friday, this gives our ladies a chance to talk, process and work through the trauma of their pasts in a safe place.
While our community activities are being run by some of the most dedicated volunteers you will find, the office staff themselves are just as busy; in and out of important meetings, accompanying clients to difficult interviews, sourcing donated furniture for the next flat renovation or ensuring the next fundraising event is all ready to go. This sounds like mayhem and at times it can be, but when a woman walks through that door with a smile on her face because she’s been granted asylum or you hear them all laughing and enjoying themselves together each week it brings a sense of calm to the office. It gives you a feeling that the Project is making a difference.
Each of our men and woman face so many barriers each day, legal barriers, speaking a different language, debt, accessing employment, trusting new people, complex mental health needs and being able to move on from their pasts to start again. These are barriers they face every day but they don’t face them alone. Each client is supported by a caseworker and a befriender who work together to see that any needs they have big or small are met and they have someone there for any difficulty they may face.
Without the long-term support of Snowdrop our brave men and women are at risk of homelessness, substance abuse, unhealthy relationships, debt and re- exploitation. We aim to help, inspire and empower each client to live a full life, free from their past.
Everything we do centres around these four walls and without them we would be hugely limited in the support we could provide to survivors.
This office gives security and guidance and brings a light of hope for the future.
To celebrate International Women’s Day Snowdrop have decided raise awareness of women who have inspired us, women who you may not have heard of, but have changed many lives. One of those hero’s is Harriet Tubman.
Born into slavery in Maryland 1820 Harriet’s life was far from easy. From a young age she was separated from her sisters and forced to work for a family. Harriet would suffer from horrendous beatings which affected her for the rest of her life; her conditions of life were very poor. Despite growing up in slavery and battling through every day, Harriet stayed determined and had a dream of one day being free. Harriet’s father was freed at the age of 45 but her owners refused to free her, until one day in 1849, Harriet’s owner became extremely ill and passed away. Seeing the opportunity Harriet took it and fled to Philadelphia all the while fearing the fate of her family and her future as an escaped slave in extreme poverty.
Harriet eventually made it to the free state of Pennsylvania she was a free woman.
But that wasn’t enough for Harriet she wanted to secure the freedom of her family and others. In 1850 Harriet heard that her niece was going to be sold into slavery with her two daughters. Fortunately her nieces husband John Bowley made the winning bid for his wife and Harriet assisted them back to Philadelphia. Over the years Harriet helped around 60 others to make the journey to freedom.
But in 1850 the law changed meaning slaves could be captured in the North and brought back into slavery. This resulted in the kidnapping of former slaves living in the Free States. In response to this law change Harriet re-routed the Underground Railroad to Canada, In December 1851, Harriet helped a group of fugitives go to the North.
Pursuing her passion of freeing others Harriet met with abolitionist John Brown who supported the use of violence to destroy the institution of slavery. Harriet shared John’s goal but not his methods. During the Civil War, Harriet worked for the Union Army as a cook and nurse, she soon became an armed scout and spy. She was the first woman to lead an armed journey in the war, and guided the Combahee River Raid, freeing more then 700 slaves in South Carolina. As of 1859 Harriet owned a small piece of land in New York where her family and friends came to live and in 1869 she married and her and her husband adopted a little girl.
Harriet Tubman is and was a hero, saving hundreds and giving them the free life they should have always had. Her story is such an inspiration to us and this is why we want to honour Harriet this International women’s day as one incredible and inspirational women.
Thank you to a Snowdrop Befriender for writing this piece on Harriet Tubman, read more about her incredible life here. Sign up to our newsletter to hear more inspirational stories of the pursuit of freedom.
Thinking back about 5 years ago I could never have imagined what my life might be like. Now I can say that life is a mystery and if anyone says that they have everything under control or that they know how tomorrow will be, they shouldn’t be so sure about it. I was sitting at the computer like I am now and I can still remember my desk: the arrangement of my documents, the little flower I used to put on my small desk. I remember feeling so proud thinking. ‘I am here because of my hard word and I deserve to be here’. I would think a million thoughts but never that my life would change like 360 degrees. It seems that when you are too confident about yourself and you think nothing bad is going to happen then you find yourself in the middle of a crossroad.
I am here now in front of the computer again, not my desk and not my office. But for the first time in 5 years I am in an office. For the people around me this is a normal thing but for me it’s like waking up from a coma and trying to remember who I was and trying to find my way in this situation that my life and my destiny has put me in.
Being an asylum seeker for about 4 years has put my life on hold. I can’t say I have done nothing because being a single mother of 2 children is the hardest thing ever, but I have missed being me. I have missed wanting my life to be all about me. And only now I am realising how much I liked my job and I much I liked to keep myself busy and make myself useful.
For the first time after so long I was given the opportunity to make myself useful and that is thanks to the Snowdrop staff. The organisation has been a great support for me and my little family, and they always find the way to make my life easier because I know I have a place there where I can go and have a coffee and chat and if I need anything they will do everything possible to help. It feels so good not feeling alone. At the moment I am helping with the toddler group and it’s great, everybody loves it: the kids don’t want to go home and the moms have an opportunity to sit have a coffee and even play with their kids, and the kids can learn through playing and singing. My kids love to come and they enjoy every moment and I love seeing them smiling and playing. Oh, and I’m still talking about my kids. I can’t help it – they are all I have and they are my life and I don’t think I will still be alive without them. The other opportunity that has been given to me is helping in the English class with ladies who are beginners. I’ve never been a teacher but just knowing that I am helping them makes me feel so good. I am enjoying every single class and when they tell me how they have improved I feel so proud, I feel how I used to feel years ago, I feel I am alive and living, not just surviving.
Sitting here and realising who I used to be and how much I have changed and grown has made me realise how strong I am and I didn’t even know I had this strength in me. And I am sure that’s not only in me but every women inside her has this strength, just some of them don’t realise and some of them will learn the hard way how strong they can be. For me, fighting my asylum case for about 4 years, having my life on hold and being insecure every single day is just so depressing sometimes. But when I see my kids and they are healthy and happy, and I see people around me helping me and actually thinking about me, that can change your life and can change your day, and can change the way you see yourself; it has definitely changed me a lot. And I don’t know what my life will be and don’t know what will happen, but I am sure I have got great people around me and they will help me out. I also have my kids for giving me a reason for everything, and I also have myself. I will get stronger with time. I am not perfect but I can do it. Like me every woman can, each of them is special and each of them has something to give; they just need to figure it out at some point in their life.
I need to say thank a big thank you to the snowdrop for making possible this opportunity for me, they don’t realise how good they make me feel and how important this is for me. Thank you ladies for making the world a better place and helping women’s like me finding the place in this world.
To find out more about the work that the Snowdrop Project does to support people like Cheryl* read more here.
Helen worked tirelessly to provide rehabilitative support for survivors of torture, trafficking, slavery, the effects of war and other forms of extreme cruelty. The Helen Bamber Foundation remains as a beacon of her work continuing to advocate for survivors of human rights violations.
Born into a Polish-Jewish family in 1925, Helen’s father exposed her to strong ideals around the importance of human rights at an early age; he taught her about the threat imposed by the Nazis to individual’s freedom. Helen’s career is said to have started “in 1945 at the age of 20 when she went to work with survivors of the holocaust in the former concentration camp of Bergen Belsen”
Throughout Helen’s career she developed her own approach to therapy, achieving what she termed ‘creative survival’. Her vision stemmed from the belief that therapy on its own was not enough. If a person’s recovery following trauma was to be sustained, then it is crucial for that person to also feel safe.
Her legacy continues to change the lives of so many survivors; the Helen Bamber Foundation was established by Helen, then 80 in 2005 along with Michael Korzinski. The Foundation continues to offer solace for survivors who have suffered all manner of human rights violations. The Foundation gives specialist psychological and physical therapy housing and welfare support, legal protection and creative arts and skills programmes all hugely important to providing holistic support to help people rebuild their lives.
Helen Bamber’s passion and drive to help those who have suffered is truly inspiring; “She was renowned for the pursuit of dignity and human rights for those who suffered the worst of man’s inhumanity. Helen dedicated her life to the care, protection and rights of the most vulnerable.” Helen Bamber was an inspirational woman whose work has helped so many, read more about the work of the Helen Bamber Foundation here