Staff Blog: Steve Watson

Steve, our deputy Head of Service, recently shared some thoughts on the pandemic and its impact on survivors of modern slavery.

“With 5 and 6-year-old children, I personally (and naturally!) feel the pandemic has been particularly hard on parents. Those living alone, undoubtedly feel the same. NHS staff would rightly say they have experienced the brunt of it all. And those who have shielded, with underlying health conditions, must feel the same. The last year has been unfairly hard on so many; on everyone.

However, for many survivors of modern slavery and those who have experienced trauma this has been both a particularly challenging experience, yet a familiar one. Those we support here in City Hearts have so often been physically ‘locked down’ and restricted, in ways we cannot imagine. Even more than that, they have been traumatised, controlled, manipulated and exploited. Psychologically locked down.

Here in the UK, we’re hopefully moving out of lockdown 3.0. For many people, it’s lockdown 4.0 or more.

Huge societal events or crises, such as coronavirus, so often have a disproportionate impact on the poor, minorities, and the already-disadvantaged. Our team here at City Hearts, working with survivors of modern slavery, has seen first-hand the consequence of the pandemic on our clients: increased mental health challenges, increased suicidality, a reliving of trauma, and a significant slowdown in their recovery and journey to independence. And recovery is why they’re here. It’s why we’re here.

Our strapline ‘pursuing freedom and restoring lives’ could not be more apt right now. This year, more than ever, we’ve been reminded why we do what we do. We’ve been reminded what our clients have been through, and been given a (very small) insight into their experiences. We’ve been reminded how important freedom is. And why we must fight for it.

We can’t really compare our shared experience of lockdown with modern slavery, of course. But we can use it to motivate ourselves and others to do what we can; to relentlessly pursue freedom for others. Especially those who are the most vulnerable in society.

I believe that we can’t always do everything to ‘fix’ the world. But we can do something. We should do more. And we should try harder.

On the 19th of April, City Hearts are embarking on a two-week virtual expedition to raise money for a new restoration hub for survivors of modern slavery and crime. It’s our way of doing what we can this year, to make the lives of those we support better, and help them take one more step towards recovery. We’d love you to be a part of it. We’d love you to join us in the expedition, or sponsor someone who is. It’s a fun challenge which anyone can take part in, which makes a real difference. You can find out more about it here.

I have some personal hopes for this year. I’m hoping that as we move out of lockdown, we may all have a greater revelation of compassion for those in our society who need it the most. I’m hoping that so many more of us use whatever influence and energy we have, to make the world freer.

When under pressure, the temptation for any individual, community or society is to look inward and protect oneself. I hope and choose to believe that the coronavirus pandemic is an opportunity and motivation to do the exact opposite; to look outward and protect others.”