Hackney charity raises funds to expand following rise in modern slavery

Woman with back to camera jumping with arms and legs out.

Ella's is a Hackney charity supporting women affected by trafficking and exploitation. - Credit: Ella's

A Hackney charity has launched a Christmas appeal to raise funds for its work supporting women affected by trafficking and exploitation. 

Ella's, which provides safe house accommodation and long-term support for service users, has seen a sharp increase in demand in 2019 and 2020. 

A woman wearing a hat. Her face is concealed by cut out Christmas crafts made of card.

Ella's has launched its Christmas Appeal to urgently raise funds for its vital services. - Credit: Ella's

Funds raised through the Christmas appeal will ensure the charity can continue its vital work and expand its reach. 

Co-director Emily Chalke told the Gazette: "Christmas at Ella’s is special.  

"For many of the women we work with,  it’s the first time in a long time, maybe ever, that they’ve felt safe and cared for during holiday times like this."

READ MORE: Friends raise funds for Christmas gifts for Hackney and Islington children

A 2020 Home Office report shows the number of people identified as victims of modern slavery has been rising rapidly.

Over 10,000 people were referred to authorities in 2019, a 52 per cent increase on the previous year. 

Ella's also reports seeing a "huge leap" in referrals for survivor accommodation and outreach services in 2019, far more than could be taken on. 

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The Hackney charity says the coronavirus pandemic has made things even more difficult, with measures to reduce the spread of the virus having a disproportionate impact on women at risk of violence, and survivors of modern slavery.

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Emina, whose name has been changed to protect her identity, is a survivor of trafficking and exploitation.

She started living at one of Ella’s safe houses in 2019.       

"Last Christmas at Ella’s was so beautiful," she said. 

"There were lots of people, and food and dancing."

Emina was trafficked from another country to the UK a number of years ago, and was hurt and exploited in many different ways.

The memories are so traumatic that Emina is unable to speak about those experiences, but she loves to talk about her life as it is now.

"If someone needs help,  they are welcome at Ella’s.   

"It’s safe and protecting. When I first came here, I felt like a queen.

"I could never have imagined that I’d be able to live in a place like this. It is so different to my past, because no-one is hurting me here. They are only protecting me."   

The charity supports women like Emina by providing a safe place to stay. It helps them access mental health and financial support, English classes and much more, so they can start planning for the future. 

"Before, I was thinking only of how to survive day-to-day. But now, I can think about my future. I would like to have my own place to live, and I would like to do a job where I can help other people who need help," said Emina.  

The first £600 raised through the Christmas Appeal will cover the costs of Christmas and New Year activities among the women Ella’s works with. All funds raised above that amount will go towards the charity's work with survivors next year.           

To support Ella's, visit www.ellas.org./christmas