Geoff Cheshire (57), who lives in Prescot (Merseyside) with his wife, hopes his expertise and knowledge around assisting vulnerable people will support the charity as it grows across the region.
Helping people held against their will has always been a cause close to Geoff’s heart and he has spent his career fighting for people’s freedom.
City Hearts, which has offices in Liverpool City Centre, runs safe houses and outreach programmes across the North West, and specialises in the short and long-term recovery of people rescued from modern slavery and human trafficking. Geoff’s skills and experience will be a welcome boost to the charity, who have supported more than 3,500 survivors of slavery in the past five years.
After a distinguished 32-year-career with Merseyside Police, nearly half of which were spent in the role of hostage negotiator, Geoff retired to join the British Red Cross as Operations Director for Lancashire, Manchester and Merseyside. In 2016, he was appointed Head of UK Operations for the Mobility Aids service, a role he still works in today.
Geoff’s experience in the police meant he was able to help develop a ‘human trafficking response team’ in the North West of England for the Red Cross. This team, made up of medics, psycho-social specialists and refugee caseworkers, were sent into rescue centres where slavery survivors were supported in the initial hours following their liberation. It was this work for the British Red Cross, which really opened Geoff’s eyes to the horrors of modern slavery.
“I will always remember a young girl I met from the Czech Republic,” he said. “She was rescued from her captors in 2016 during a police operation in Manchester, and was brought into a recovery centre that I was running with my Red Cross colleagues. She had been forced to travel to the UK and into a life of prostitution. She was then ’sold’ into a sham marriage, where she was forced to have children. She wasn’t living with the man, but was kept in a house with other girls in a similar situation, and was tattooed by her captors as a mark of ownership. She was finally able ask for help during an anti-natal appointment during her third pregnancy. This young woman, who was in her early twenties, arrived at the rest centre with three children (one having just been born) and the clothes she stood up in. She was scared, psychologically linked to her captors, and completely disorientated.
I saw the care and love given to her, as well as the compassionate but practical support. She was taken to a safe house and was able to start her journey to freedom, independence and recovery.”
Geoff said; “I first met City Hearts when I was working in Liverpool, and I was inspired by their commitment and approach to supporting survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking.”
“I have already built up a great relationship with my fellow trustees, Ed (our CEO) and other members of the management team. I am proud to be associated with the hard work, dedication and commitment from all of our staff and volunteers, and I am glad I get to play a small part in helping the rehabilitation and recovery process of survivors,”
Geoff was invited to take on the role by Ed Newton, Chief Executive of City Hearts.
Ed said; “In our Merseyside centre, we support more survivors of modern slavery than in any other region. Through Geoff’s work with us there, I have had the privilege of seeing first hand his complete commitment to the incredibly vulnerable people we support. Geoff’s background and skills will strengthen our Trustee team enormously and we are delighted to welcome him on board.”