Have you ever had a situation that challenged everything you thought you knew? I had one of those when I met a young girl called Hannah in Liverpool, England.
I had just started working after completing my Bachelor’s Degree as a 22 year old drug treatment counselor. In this role one of my major, and most difficult, tasks was running police cell sweeps assessing the needs of children who had come into contact with the Police.
Hannah told me she had an older boyfriend. When I asked her a little more, however, it became clear that in fact it was a series of older men she was being passed between. After a comprehensive assessment it became clear that although Hannah was 16, due to some severe trauma she had suffered she had a mental age of 10 – and yet she was being trafficked, exploited, and raped by a series of men on a daily basis through the children’s home that should have been providing her care.
I came across many disturbing cases in this job but Hannah’s case particularly upset me. I knew I had to try to do something about it and so I raised it with my superiors. Having done so they immediately told me to drop it. Clearly there was no appetite to help Hannah. This attitude would never sit right with me so I raised it again, and again, and again, and always got the same response. I should drop this now or my young career would be ruined.
This episode taught me some uncomfortable, but important truths:
When children are out of sight, they are out of mind;
Children raised in less fortunate circumstances are much more likely to be trafficked or abused and need our help;
We must always challenge existing practices when they are wrong;
Powerful and haunting experiences like this one are what has led us to create Hopeland: children need someone to step up and fight for them so that they can have the safe, loving family they deserve.
I’m so pleased with the progress Hopeland has already made and I’m excited to share with you Hopeland’s 2018 achievements:
Hopeland’s first campaign ‘All Children Count’ has now received support from the UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, who has called for $1billion of extra funding to ensure all children are counted. The UN Foundation’s Global Mom’s Challenge also recognized our FAMILY campaign and called on its supporters to get behind our work.
Hopeland has also been at the forefront of several important partnerships this year, including ReThink Orphanages, Destination Family, and work with The Share Trust. I am also proud that my incredible Co-Founder, Deborra-lee Furness, again hosted the Global Citizen Festival with her husband Hugh Jackman in Central Park. Our new video featuring Deborra-lee also debuted at the Festival. I was also proud to see Deborra-lee recognized for her work at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival Disruptor Awards.
Our important advocacy work continued as we have connected the Australian and UK Government’s experts on Modern Slavery as we further develop our FAMILY campaign which has the goal of testing the impact of direct cash transfers and support services on female-led households in preventing family separation, increasing education, and reducing violence.
Hopeland also held its first ever Hackathon at the Boston Consulting Group’s NYC offices and partnered with Paramount Pictures on its new movie Instant Family which explores the reality of adopting and foster care in America.
All this progress makes me so proud to be the CEO of Hopeland and I am so excited for 2019. I’m sure, though, that you are wondering what happened to Hannah.
The story ended with me sat in a community center in Liverpool with an investigator interviewing one of the men involved in the ring that they had exposed. In spite of the threats to my career I persevered. Working hard to do what was right taught me this:
Just because you didn’t cause the problem doesn’t mean you can’t be a part of the solution.
By being part of Hopeland’s family you are being part of the solution!