In the UK more than a third of all trafficking victims are children. Many were brought here with false promises, threats, and abuse. Because it’s not an easily visible crime, it’s a bit hard to believe — that such a progressive and generous nation could still hold so many children in modern slavery. But it’s true. These young people are all around us: working in your local nail bar, at the carwash on the corner, as domestic servants, or forced to grow and sell drugs. The truth is, if they are invisible, it is because we have not taken the trouble to see them.
Bao was living in Southeast Asia with his family when someone approached him and promised him a better life in the UK. Little did Bao know that his “better life” would mean being locked up in a cannabis farm and given food only once per day. Months later, Bao was discovered by the police, but mistaken for a criminal, and not properly identified as a trafficked victim. Love146 has journeyed alongside Bao, supporting his well-being and helping him, step by step, to reach that “better life” he had hoped for.
Another survivor Love146 supports is Mai, who has only been free of her trafficker for about four months now. Everyday she thinks about her trafficker – his threats ring in her memories and sometimes she wonders if she should run away, back to the nail bar where she was working. But she has stayed — and she likes living with her new carers. They are kind to her and support her dreams of becoming an engineer.
Bao and Mai’s stories are all too common. Indeed, the trauma of exploitation for Bao and Mai didn’t end once they were no longer being trafficked. Bao was misidentified as a criminal when he should have be protected as a child and a victim. And Mai is at risk of disappearing back into the arms of the very people who exploited her.
It’s not too late for these valuable young people to live as children again. They need not be a statistic — if we are willing to act.
For children like Bao, Mai, and so many others, our Survivor Support program is critical. Love146 provides safe and secure accommodations where children are protected from the risk of further exploitation. We support young people while they are in foster care; planning for their education, health, and legal needs while ensuring their safety. We also work with foster carers to ensure that they are equipped and supported to provide for the specific needs of a trafficked young person. The Love146 team builds trusting relationships both with the survivors in our own accommodations and young people in foster placements, empowering them to dream about their future again, and helping them to progress towards eventual independence. Our care does not have an expiration date. We journey with survivors for as long as they want us in their lives.
This Christmas, you have the opportunity to provide a safe placement and a caring presence to trafficked and exploited young people. With your help, more children will be free and protected, and with your support, Love146 can guide these children as they reclaim their dreams. Some might tell you this is not possible — that we should not expect too much from survivors. Some might call this goal naive. We call it audacious. We don’t allege that recovery is easy for these young people. On the contrary — it is extraordinarily difficult. But we can say this: children are resilient, and despite terrible abuse, they can flourish again. Over and over the brave young people we work with have shown us that despite the darkness, there is reason to Hope. And that should inspire us to act.
For many of us, the idea of Christmas is synonymous with the idea of home. In a way, it’s what we all want. A place where we belong — where we are loved and safe and known. Whether you can give a little or a lot this Christmas, your generosity means that a trafficked young person will have a safe place to call home. Right now the impact of your gift will be doubled, thanks to a generous supporter of Love146 who has offered to match all donations up to £7,500. With your help we can give survivors what we all yearn for at Christmas: the gifts of safety, comfort, joy, and home. You can ensure that Christmas will come for them too.
*names have been changed to protect survivors