'I feel a sense of freedom and have a chance to show the skills that I do have, not feeling worthless or self-harming.'
'I feel like I've been given a second chance to be able to live the life that I've always wanted to live.'
'I have gained self-confidence and self-belief which I haven't had in a long time.' *
From the moment we started HOLOS, we were loud and clear about our determination to run a business not just for profit, but also with purpose. A place where we could employ survivors of modern slavery and work with charity partners to cultivate employability skills and confidence.
We are so honoured to now be working alongside amazing women who have been through so much, and who are working to build their confidence and employability skills as they rebuild their lives.
While the facts of modern slavery are simply overwhelming, we believe that there's much that we can do to make a difference. For us, it's staying true to our core purpose of employing survivors. For you, it may be donating to support anti-trafficking charities, volunteering your time and of course, supporting socially purposeful businesses like ours.
2021's theme for the UN's World Day Against Trafficking in Persons speaks to allowing survivors' voices to lead the way, so we wanted to share, not just facts and statistics, but a true story of a remarkable woman called Ana ** who has been supported by one of our charity partners, Caritas Bakhita House.
We hope that her story will both remind us all of the everyday realities of modern slavery, and also inspire us to continue taking steps to break the cycle of trafficking in the UK.
Throughout my marriage, I suffered domestic violence at the hands of my husband. We had very little income, and he persuaded me that if we went to the UK, we could earn more money to send home to support our children. I thought he meant cleaning, but when we arrived, he forced me to work as a sex worker on the streets of London. He was both physically and mentally abusive, and threatened me constantly with never seeing my children again.
I worked continuously, seeing many clients a night, until one night both my body and my mind felt completely broken. A police officer stopped and spoke to me; it was the first kindness I had been shown in a long time. He told me he could take me somewhere I would be safe and despite being terrified, I accepted his help. Within an hour of being taken off the streets, the police took me to Bakhita House and I entered a different world. I was given food, clean clothes and a clean room of my own.
For the first time in ten years, I slept all night undisturbed. For the first time, I felt safe.
The staff got me onto a course, which showed me how to write a CV and how to act at an interview. I went on to get two jobs. When it was time for me to move on, they found me somewhere to live outside London. At first, I was reluctant, but they assured me I would like it, and they were right - I love my new home, my new city, my new jobs and my new beginning!
My mental and physical health was poor when I arrived at Bakhita House, but by the time I left I was a different person. I no longer feel broken. Most importantly, I can now work towards getting my children back!