The Sophie Hayes Foundation


The Sophie Hayes Foundation


Organisation Type:

A charity supporting survivors of human trafficking

Project Brief:

  • Organise and conduct interview, ensuring beneficiary is relaxed and at ease

  • Write up case study


See below

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Jamie* grew up in Indonesia. She studied and worked as a teacher for many years. She then secured a dream job abroad working as a private tutor for a family in the Middle East. Sadly this proved to be a false offer and she was forced into a life of domestic servitude. On arrival her passport and mobile phone were immediately confiscated, and she joined a large collection of domestic workers serving the family, enslaved in a life of cleaning, housework and childcare.


Although she was “employed” by a wealthy family she felt like she was living in a prison. She was never allowed out and was trapped in, guarded by an elaborate network of security and body guards. She tried to challenge the way that she was being treated, speaking up to demand that her human rights be respected. Her requests were met with laughter. She tried to resign, but was told “once you get in here you will be here forever.


“Every day was like hell,” Jamie reflects. “Every day was like years for me…They treated us like animals. We wanted to dig a hole […] to make a way out.” Jamie never got a day off. Every day was a work day. Most days she worked for 18 hours a day. She recalls how even the family’s children would hit her, beat her and throw boiling water on her. They also taunted her saying “we bought you”.


“It made me feel like I was so cheap, my value was so small. I don’t know how I lived and kept going,” she reflects.  


After about a year her host family went on holiday to the UK taking several of their “staff” to the London, including Jamie. “I didn’t know anyone or anything in London…[but] I thought maybe people here are different, maybe I can ask for help?” One night she managed to escape. She was putting the bins out and decided to try to run away.


“I prayed ‘Lord please guide me, whatever will I do, I don’t know where to go. Please help me. I don’t know anyone but I’m doing this to save my life’. She walked outside to put the rubbish out and ran. Someone saw her escape and ran after Jamie to stop her. “It was like we were in movie. I was running down the streets asking him to leave me alone and let me go. He grabbed me but I escaped. I saw he was already calling the family. I didn’t know the means of transportation here but I took a black cab.” She asked the taxi driver to drop her in London Bridge – the only location in the city she had heard of thanks to a children’s song that references the location: “London Bridge is falling down, falling down, falling down…”. Miraculously someone stopped in the train station to check she was ok and made sure she got help.


She connected with some local charities supporting migrants and domestic workers. They allocated Jamie a case worker and supported her to put in an application to the National Referral Mechanism, the UK’s framework for identifying survivors of human trafficking and modern day slavery. Her case worker then referred her to The Sophie Hayes Foundation.


Jamie enrolled on the Day 46 Programme, attending a series of eight weekly workshops focused on confidence building and employability. The sessions had a profound impact on her. “From that time I felt I was given direction and can do something here in the UK…It gave me reasons to live again…and taught me to dream again. I had felt I was bounded and could not do anything. I was able to gain my confidence back again and I felt like it was the new me!”


“People here [at The Sophie Hayes Foundation] welcomed me wholeheartedly. You accepted me for who I am and I was given a new life. A new hope, a new purpose. I was thinking ‘how will I start again?’ I am just so blessed I met all of you. I feel the feeling of belongingness. I found home in a strange place. It made me feel that we just have to hope and there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.”


After completing the workshops, Jamie progressed onto the Sophie Hayes outreach programme where she began regular 1-to-1 coaching sessions with her Sophie Hayes coach and was supported into vocational placements. The coaching sessions “helped me to get into my interests and work out what I wanted to do,” explained Jamie. “It pushed me to my passions. I developed different skills.”


Her SHF Coach supported her to secure a number of placements including volunteering for a charity shop, a children’s centre, a foodbank and a local arts centre. When she was trapped in a life of domestic servitude “for so many months…I was just holding a mop and a broom….So the feeling of being able to do admin work again – it was amazing! The feeling of holding a computer again!”


Jamie then went on, with the support of her coach, to apply for an entrepreneurs programme run by Hera, one of SHF’s partner organisations. She was delighted to discover she had been selected! She went on to be awarded a prize for the Best Presentation and Best Business Proposal on the entrepreneurs’ programme.


“I’ve learned a lot on the Day 46 programme,” she smiles. “Communication skills were built again. I gained friends…. [The facilitators] encouraged me. You bring out the best in us. I never experienced this. I didn’t know there was a programme like this in the UK that would value us and treat us like equally. It’s a great feeling that you are being valued and you have a feeling that you are worthy. You gave us back our self-esteem, and not only confidence, but bringing out the best in us.”


“The programme helped me. I feel like I’m ready for work now. I now have the qualities to get hired in the UK. [Before the programme] I had lost my confidence totally, but getting through the programme I was given the opportunity to see there is more that I can do, that through your perseverance and your strength you can pursue whatever dreams you have. The programme was a really life changing experience that helps you to see the real you! It teaches you how to love yourself again. Ever since the programme I have been independent again!”


The programme has also “honestly really improved my relationships with others. I became more open. I could share again… Before [the programme] I was aloof and thought everybody was bad and that I wasn’t worthy. The Sophie Hayes Foundation has changed my view and how I look to people. I now know there is good in people and that I can learn from people. I became more positive. Everything is still uncertain [in my life] but now I have this attitude that there is always light at the end of the tunnel!


Jamie now wants to teach again, as she loves inspiring children. “But I also want to pay back all the kindness I have been shown...I want to make a difference…I want to help survivors again – I want to facilitate with the SHF, I want to be lecturer, I want to tell my story…[and] to write a book about my experiences.”


Jamie is all too familiar with the challenges of living with a past trauma: “The feeling that you are in the darkest time in your life, you have no goal, you felt like you are alone and…hopeless, that you can’t do anything more. You are stuck. You are worthless… All of my hopes and dreams were gone. The feeling that my dreams were already unreachable and I couldn’t do anything about it…I was broken down into pieces”. Jamie is passionate about sharing with others that these feelings don’t mean life is over. “I want to tell my story to tell other women that life doesn’t stop there. I was given the hope on The Day 46 Programme… I wanted to be an inspiration to others that even if you had a very bad experience in your past it doesn’t define you as a person. You can overcome all the trials you encountered.


Jamie has just signed up to train as a Sophie Hayes facilitator to help run the Day 46 Programme workshops for other survivors of human trafficking, working to restore hope and purpose to women who have endured similar experiences.

Alongside this Jamie continues to throw herself into a variety of voluntary opportunities while she waits in hope for the right to work and a positive outcome from the National Referral Mechanism (NRM).


“Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. You transformed my life!”



*Name changed to protect identity