Each new guest at Caritas Bakhita House finds a welcome basket in their bedroom, containing essential toiletries and a few more luxurious items. Many of these have been donated by schools and parishes in the diocese
The baskets are put together by charity Their Voice which aims to empower survivors of human trafficking and modern slavery by providing practical and emotional support. They currently supply seven safehouses in London, Surrey and Kent.
“Their Voice” ensure that all toiletries are of good quality and take care over the presentation of the welcome baskets. One of the charity’s founders Carolyn Thom explains why:
Back in 2015 I was at a meeting at the Salvation Army headquarters where I heard a manager of a safehouse speaking about the everyday life of the staff supporting women who had been rescued from modern slavery and how she was looking for volunteers to help down at the safehouse. I jumped at the opportunity of being able to help and was recruited as a volunteer.
One of the first tasks I was asked to do was to go into the store cupboard and find some toiletries to put in the bedrooms for two new arrivals. As I started to search through a big box of toiletries I came across an assortment of items, partially used shampoos, hand creams that were so old that they had congealed in the containers, odd toothbrushes that had lost their wrapping. There were some new items and I managed to cobble together a few toiletries which were a mishmash of different colours and sizes in a shoe box and tried to arrange them so they looked more attractive. I was not really happy with my finished product.
I remember thinking that these two women who were expected at the safehouse that afternoon, would have experienced the worst of humanity, suffered unimaginable things. Surely they deserved better. One of these women could have been my sister, my daughter, my best friend, I needed to show in a tangible way that people cared for them and most importantly give them a radical welcome.
That week I started to think of ways I could get new toiletries, find presentation baskets and make up a colour coordinated welcome basket of toiletries to put in the bedrooms of safehouses awaiting the arrival of newly rescued survivors.
We started with local churches who allowed me to give presentations raising awareness of modern slavery in the community and in return everyone who attended brought toiletries that we needed to make up the welcome baskets. A local florist showed us how to make up the baskets so they looked like a gift and not a hand out, each one was cellophane wrapped with a colour coordinated ribbon on it. We took into account cultural differences and made up baskets to meet the needs of Afro Caribbean clients using different products for their skin and hair. Each basket was supplied with a little welcome card written in eight different languages. One survivor commented on receiving her welcome basket seeing the welcome card written in her native language made her feel welcomed into the safehouse, this was something she did not expect and would not forget.
By 2017 the requests for welcome baskets had increased sufficiently for us to start a charity called Their Voice which now offers practical and emotional support to survivors of modern slavery living in the safehouse and community. Over the years we have increased the basket contents to include lipsticks, nail polishes, perfumes to assist the women in their journey of recovery so that they no longer feel like they are a commodity owned by traffickers, they can take an interest in their appearance and start their personal journey of restoring their dignity and self-esteem.
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