The harrowing scale of modern slavery in the UK today and what is being done to support its victims was revealed to Rotarians this week.
Guest speaker at Maidenhead Rotary Club’s Monday meeting was Marc Pearson, an anti-slavery envoy for the Medaille Trust which provides refuge for the victims of modern slavery and helps them rebuild their lives.
A Catholic organisation set up in 2006 to help survivors from people trafficking, the trust is one of the largest providers of supported safe house beds for victims of modern slavery in the UK.
Marc explained that while slavery in the traditional sense still exists in some parts of the world, modern slavery covers people being forced into work for low pay under the control of others.
Often they are vulnerable people trafficked from Eastern Europe on the promise of a better life. But when they arrive in the UK they find the reality very different, forced instead into near slave-labour or even a life of crime while having to live in crowded and unsanitary conditions. Victims include sex workers and people working in construction, agriculture, nail bars and car washes.
Marc said more than 40 million people are estimated to be trapped in some form of slavery across the world. Research from 2018 estimated the number of victims in the UK could be at least 136,000. In 2019 alone 10,627 potential victims were identified by police, up 53 per cent on the previous year and a figure which has grown year-on-year since 2015, when the Modern Slavery Act was introduced.
“It’s a good thing that more people are identified as it means more people get helped,” said Marc, who explained the Medaille Trust has nine safe houses across the UK, providing 116 beds for people who have escaped modern slavery.
Working with other organisations such as the Salvation Army, it provides support on the long journey from victim to survivor as it helps them rebuild their lives, often tackling problems such as alcoholism, mental illness and drug addiction resulting from their experiences. Last year the Trust helped 171 women, 86 men and 48 children from 47 different countries.
The Trust also tries to prevent people becoming victims and works in countries like Albania to stop those with limited economic prospects falling prey to people traffickers. At the other end of the problem it assists the police with prosecutions. It has helped score notable victories against criminal gangs, one of which had 33 people forced into construction work living in a single house.
Marc’s talk finished with a quote from a former female victim. She said: “Medaille opened their doors to me when I was most in need. The staff walked by my side and helped me to find my way. With their help I spread my wings and today I fly high. I am free.”
A dental clinic in Kenya providing free treatment to a poor local community has re-opened its doors thanks to ongoing support from Maidenhead Rotarians.
The fortnightly Makindu Dental Clinic was forced to abruptly close at the outbreak of the pandemic last year after providing free dental treatment for the last 10 years with the help of Maidenhead Rotary Club and the individual fundraising efforts of member Gurdip Bahra.
The new Thames Hospice is not a place for dying but a place for making the most of living. That was the key message from an uplifting talk about the charity given to the Rotary Club of Maidenhead at its meeting on Monday.
To find out more about Thames Hospice see https://thameshospice.org.uk/
The first official duty of the club’s new president-elect Martin Trepte was to hammer in the plaque for a tree planted to mark Rotary Day.
The rowan tree was planted in Oaken Grove Park, Maidenhead, by president Mary Spinks to commemorate Rotary’s 116th anniversary on February 23rd.
A tree-planting ceremony in Oaken Grove Park this week marked both the 116th anniversary of Rotary and the organisation’s historic adoption of ‘protecting the environment’ as a core objective.
Maidenhead’s Rotary clubs have teamed up with Rotary clubs across the Thames Valley to support two important outdoor family areas at the newly-opened Thames Hospice.
The clubs will be sponsoring the family courtyard and the bereavement garden at the hospice site near Bray Lake, which opened its doors in October last year.
If you would like to support the gardens or the Hospice please visit the website https://thameshospice.org.uk/ or get in touch on 01753 842121.
It was ‘hats-on for Rotary’ at the club’s latest meeting on Monday when participants were asked to wear their most unusual headgear – the funnier the better.
The display of marvellous millinery was the idea of president Mary Spinks who wants meetings, currently held over Zoom during lockdown, to remain lots of fun.
From bonnets, boaters and berets to caps, keffiyehs and chapeaux of every kind, the array of hilarious headpieces even included an impressively modified hanging basket to promote the club’s Open Gardens event in June.
Judging fell to guest speaker Rhidian Jones –appropriately sporting a mortarboard – who had given a fascinating illustrated talk about Beethoven punctuated with examples of his music. For Rhidian, a former tutor in music for the Open University and assistant director of music at All Saints Church in Marlow, the clear winners were husband and wife team Eddie and Eileen Clarke.
Eddie’s head was proudly adorned by a colourful fluffy horned creation, while Eileen had entered into the true spirit of the event with her ‘gin and tonic’ hat.
President Mary said: “It was lots of fun and just what we needed in lockdown when we are all getting a bit fed up with Zoom meetings. Everyone enjoyed themselves and many thanks to our guest speaker for being the judge and picking the worthy winners.”
Learning under lockdown has been made easier for students at Desborough College who do not have a computer at home, thanks to a gift of six laptops from the Rotary Club of Maidenhead.
The laptops were donated by individual Rotarians after club member Gurdial Singh saw a news report highlighting how students from poorer families were being most affected by studying at home under lockdown as they were less likely to have a computer. Gurdial, who is the club’s liaison person with Desborough, contacted the Shoppenhangers Road college to confirm they needed computers before appealing to club members for old or unwanted laptops.
“The club membership response was both rapid and positive,” said Gurdial. “Altogether we supplied six laptops between January 25 and February 3 to support home schooling during lockdown. This is part of our overall commitment to education and our school support programme.” He added: “We received more laptops than I envisaged - hats off to Maidenhead Rotary Club members for rising to the occasion.”