Would you have guessed that trafficked victims are to be found all around South Wales? That men, women and children – who may well live next door to you – are daily trying to overcome the memories of the past that haunt them at the start of each morning? Are your eyes open to their plight? Jesus’ eyes are. He feels their pain. He knows their suffering. And his heart breaks for the experiences they have endured.
He wants us to love them as he has loved them.
Hence the Embrace Project. Embrace financially sponsors and befriends survivors of human trafficking in Cardiff and Newport, South Wales. Embrace grew out of the charity Red Community in December 2016. We wanted to launch something to be the hands and feet of Jesus to men, women and children who have been trampled on, used and exploited for labour, domestic servitude, sex and forced marriage.
The sponsorship aspect of Embrace is simple. We have linked with partners who are employed by the government to support victims of human trafficking. When these partners encounter a financial need of their clients, they apply for funding from Embrace. The funding is needed as most trafficked survivors are asylum seekers and only receiving about £35 per week from the government. We have supported survivors to purchase clothing, household items, English courses, counselling sessions, bus tickets, food, emergency accommodation and much more. Since we started, we have been able to give gifts totalling nearly £7,000. All the money comes from private donors who want to be able to give their money to survivors of human trafficking. We are eternally grateful for their generosity. And so are the recipients. Their dignity begins to be restored as they can buy items we easily take for granted.
The second aspect of Embrace is befriending. Most people would agree that they are happier when supportive and loving family or friends surround them. God has made us that we thrive as we experience friendship. But survivors of human trafficking are in a country that is not their own. No family. No friends. Nothing to do. No one to talk to. This utter loneliness leads to depression and could encourage them to return to their traffickers.
Embrace wants to restore friendships to men and women who have experienced the worst of human nature. We connect trained Christians in Cardiff and Newport to survivors of human trafficking. Each week, the Befriender contacts their Embrace friend and plans to do activities that are fun. Coffee, trips to the sea, exploring a museum, walking around the park, playing table tennis, a round of crazy golf. All fun things that normal friends would do together.
We have had feedback from both survivors and their support workers that Embrace befriending is providing survivors with confidence, happiness, purpose and vision. Isn’t it exciting how friendship can begin to heal hurt?
One of the sweetest parts of this project has been when we have gathered for coffee mornings or holiday parties. Embrace befrienders and their friends, along with lots of children, are welcome to come and do a craft, eat lots of cake, drink coffee, play games and chat with one another. It is a beautiful sight – many cultures, backgrounds and experiences in one room, all laughing and chatting.
This isn’t an evangelistic project. We at Embrace love Jesus, and we want people to know and experience him. But the project exists simply to show the love of Jesus to people who haven’t experienced pure, unmanipulative love, and to extend his light to the darkness and bring hope.