Jenna Clark on helping young victims of trafficking

The project worker at Barnardo's human trafficking service covers the Isle of Wight, Southampton, Portsmouth and Hampshire

Jenna Clark
Jenna Clark

I work with children and young people who have been trafficked into and within the UK, many of whom have experienced horrendous abuse and trauma. They have been trafficked for sexual exploitation, forced labour and criminal activity, or held as domestic slaves.

They don't have anyone, so I'm their go-to person for everything. I help them with their housing and health needs, get them into education and help them through the immigration process.

I'm currently working with about 24 young people and we have a waiting list. There's so much more trafficking going on than I could once have comprehended - as soon as you become aware of it, you can't stop seeing it on nearly every street corner.

It was daunting when I started. When I saw the first young person I was going to work with, my knees buckled in shock because he was so malnourished. He'd come from Eritrea on one of those boats that you see in the media, and we were supporting him to get asylum here.

Sometimes the young people I work with aren't successful in seeking asylum and they get sent back, particularly if they're from places like Afghanistan that have officially been declared safe. It's very hard when you've spent time with them and you understand what it is they've risked their lives to get away from.

There's so much misunderstanding in the media about these young people and so many barriers in their way so you have be passionate about fighting to give them a voice. You also have to be very patient - earning their trust and learning their stories has taken me as long as 18 months in some cases.

My job leaves me feeling hugely grateful. I work with people who have had the worst experiences, but who are absolutely amazing, and when you do something like put them in school they are so grateful for something I would take for granted. I realise that I really can't complain.

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