How has the global pandemic COVID19 impacted our Survivors of Modern Slavery?
It has been a really challenging time for our Survivor School to meet the increased needs of our clients. Awareness around Mental Health has never been more prevalent than now in a global context. Covid19 has impacted the lives of so many people, and has hit hardest upon those who were already vulnerable.
The Freedom Hub Survivor School currently supports over 60 Survivors, who are actively in our care. That means over 60 lives in Australia have entrusted the Freedom Hub to help look after their long term welfare, ensuring they are safe, are accessing supports, are able to maintain their employment and education, and living sustainable and balanced lives. However, the necessary lockdown made our already vulnerable and isolated Survivors feel even more isolated.
So how did the Freedom Hub respond, in order to support our Survivors in the most appropriate way?
With the increased use of online platforms, The Freedom Hub immediately shifted all of our Survivor School classes, workshops and supports to a virtual forum. Our team members who are all trained in Trauma Informed Care, spent time educating Survivors on Covid-19. We taught them the Australian Government health guidelines, restrictions and protocols. Our Survivors were given detailed information about using online and virtual platforms. Our services were shifted to the provision of remote case practise such as TeleHealth/TeleMentalHealth support via Facetime, phone or virtual Zoom meetings. And classes became more interactive with online education and classes. The Freedom Hub have continued to engage an average of 10 Survivors per week in online classes. These include such as English, Work Readiness, Personal Development, Health & Self-Care. We have also provided fitness and stress reduction through our online ‘Trauma Informed Yoga’. Weekly welfare checks for the other Survivors living independently has been important to ensure they are not feeling isolated or fearful. We continued 1:1 Tutoring support for those continuing in their TAFE courses. Plus our usual individual employment support, continued psycho-social supports, as well as any essential crisis intervention, if needed. It has been a very busy two months.
Virtual Coffee and Horses!?!?
Our approach went one step further to engage our Survivors in daily social interactions with each other. We did this by creating a daily ‘Virtual Coffee Chat’. This has provided a safe way to interact with friends from the safety of their own home. Survivors shared recipes and cooking ideas. They shared suggestions of what to watch on Netflix or YouTube. They came up with ideas about online learning or free workshops they can do. Then there were discussions on how to stay fit and healthy while in isolation. Our expert staff taught them techniques to relieve stress, and daily Self-Care practises, all while having fun and laughter over a daily cuppa! We even incorporated virtual interactions with our Equine Therapy horses. Periodically we have visited these horses in the past, but now the Survivors are seeing them through the screen! This created such wonderful moments of joy and as they felt they were out in nature even just for a while.
So COVID19 has not been all bad. Without question many survivors have been more anxious than usual, and some have not had the tech skills or wifi to be able to engage. But for those who have, the experience has been so great, that our goal now will be to create a user friendly e-learning platform, provide laptops and data to all new survivors that join our service.
The Survivor School gears up to open it’s doors for face-to-face classes this week with health and hygiene protocols in place, while still offering a blended learning platform, including the ongoing provision of online classes and supports, and of course, with our popular Virtual Coffee Chat continuing daily!
We are very very grateful to Westpac Foundation, 100Women, Greatorex Foundation, Vivcoart, City of Sydney, Milne Family foundation for grants and the many other donors who have helped us through this difficult time. If you would like to help us get the e-learning strategy up and running then please donate here. We are also keen to receive good condition laptops, ipads and iphones to help our survivors into their new world of tech.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Author: Eleni Argy