Restoring Dignity to Survivors of Human Trafficking in Northern Ireland
Foundation Church Belfast’s Jenny Lowry shares her experience working with Flourish NI as part of her training in occupational health. You can find out more about Flourish NI by visiting their website.
As part of my occupational therapy degree studies, I completed a five week elective placement with Flourish NI, a Belfast based charity supporting survivors of human trafficking living in Northern Ireland.
Common types of exploitation experienced by these survivors include forced labour, sexual exploitation, domestic servitude and criminal exploitation. Flourish NI seek to provide holistic, long-term support to survivors beyond the initial 45 day recovery period provided by the government. This includes advocacy, helping with housing and benefits issues, upskilling, befriending services and facilitating peer support at the weekly drop in.
Holistic care for survivors
The premise of occupational therapy is that when we have a routine of participating in healthy and meaningful activities (occupations), our overall health and wellbeing improves. We are the only health professional whose training is holistic, with an equal emphasis on both physical and mental health.
Over the past couple of years, I have been interested in how occupational therapists can play a part in rehabilitating and reintegrating survivors of human trafficking into society, which is what led me to doing this placement with Flourish NI.
Most days I shadowed the senior caseworker and got to know the clients and their families. Many clients are dealing with debilitating effects of the trauma they have experienced, as well have being restricted in society due to things like immigration status, language barriers, and cultural stigma.
At the weekly drop-in I facilitated some anxiety management, a sleep hygiene workshop, relaxation, breathing techniques and creative activities. Really the main focus was on encouraging people to get involved in activities they enjoy and building relationships. Without going into detail, there is plenty of research to suggest that occupational therapy interventions can increase confidence, help survivors reintegrate into society and ultimately achieve their long-term goal of a safe, independent life.
Supporting Flourish NI
To support Flourish, we can pray. Pray for the physical, emotional and spiritual healing of survivors. Pray for emotional protection over the caseworkers and volunteers as they help survivors deal with extremely complex trauma. Pray for our society that our eyes can be open, that we will speak out against slavery in all its forms, and that we will be accepting and loving towards survivors. Pray for the perpetrators, that their hearts and lives will be transformed and they will set their victims free. Pray for justice.
Secondly, we can give. Flourish have office space for a small bank of food, clothing, hygiene and household items. Check out their social media @FlourishNI where they post regular updates of items they need.
If you wish to give financially to the work of Flourish, you can do this via their website. We can also give ourselves, to being aware of the signs of modern slavery, and to welcoming those who have been affected by it in any form.
Tackling modern slavery in Northern Ireland
My time with Flourish was emotionally challenging, but very rewarding and I feel encouraged and excited by the work they do to bring restoration to those affected by modern slavery, right here in Northern Ireland.
If you suspect modern slavery is occurring, please don’t ignore it. You can report is online via: www.modernslaveryhelpline.org or by calling: 0800 0121 700.