Following revelations that Olympic athlete Sir Mo Farah was forced to work as a domestic servant as a child, City Hearts wants to thank him for his courage in using his platform to shine a light on the horrors of Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking.
According to a BBC interview, Sir Mo was taken from his home in Somaliland aged nine, by a woman who said he was going to stay with relatives in the UK. He was given fake travel documents with the name Mohamed Farah – his real name is Hussein Abdi Kahin – and told to keep quiet.
Once in the UK, he was sent to live with a family he was not related to, who made him look after their young children and clean their home. He did not attend school until he was 12.
City Hearts CEO Ed Newton, said: “We are saddened to hear that Sir Mo Farah was exploited at such a young age, but we are also inspired by his courage and the resilience he has shown, both personally and professionally, in overcoming what was undoubtedly a traumatic experience.”
Mo’s circumstances mirror that of many Modern Slavery survivors. He was a child from a one-parent family, living in a poverty-stricken country that was plagued with civil unrest. These vulnerabilities made him an easy target to the traffickers who brought him to the UK to exploit him.
Last year, the UK government reported that 10,627 potential victims of Modern Slavery were referred into the support system for survivors of Trafficking, but the real number is likely to be much higher.
Labour trafficking is the most common form of exploitation among adults and children, and nearly half of all victims identified are children.
Children who arrive alone in the UK as refugees, or who are targeted in their home countries due to poverty, are particularly at risk of exploitation due to their precarious circumstances.
It was Mo’s high school PE teacher that spotted his incredible talents on the athletic track, and who was able to gain Mo’s trust. Mo was able to confide in his teacher that he had been trafficked into the UK under a fake name and was being used as a domestic worker. This revelation meant that Mo could be removed from his exploitation and placed in foster care.
For many survivors, their recovery journey starts with being believed, and then encouraged to succeed.
Mo’s journey took time, guidance and resilience. This is an approach we are passionate about at City Hearts.
Victims of exploitation are often hidden, invisible to the public behind closed doors, but also made to feel invisible in the homes they live in.
This invisibility can erode their spirit until they feel worthless and unable to function back in the ‘real world’.
Our Integration Support Department supports survivors to recover emotionally from their experiences and to regain the feelings of self-worth and confidence that were taken from them during their ordeal.
Our clients, many of whom were also forced to work as domestic servants in the UK, are encouraged to take part in activities that are designed to increase their confidence and social skills, in the hope of preventing them becoming isolated, and therefore vulnerable.
It is our hope that every survivor we support goes on to live independently and achieve everything they wish for, just like Sir Mo.