Sheffield charity has nine months to find a new home so it can continue supporting its trafficking survivors
“If I hadn’t had Snowdrop, I would not be here today," says a survivor of trafficking.
The woman, who was trafficked for sexual exploitation from the age of 13 was ‘saved’ by the Snowdrop Project, which provides support when all other organisations don't.
The charity, based in Sheffield city centre, was only able to help eight people when it first launched in 2012.
It now supports 65 victims and is expected to increase to 80 next year.
The Snowdrop Project has launched a fundraising campaign to buy its own building and provide stability, as well as better security for clients. It needs to relocate from its Mid City House address by April 2020.
Providing a space for clients to call home and feel safe is important for those individuals who may have had to move from place to place as many as 70 times.
The charity ideally still wants to be based within the city centre and in close proximity to a tram stop - this ensures that all clients are able to access services, especially those living on a basic amount of £37.75 a week who cannot afford to spend all their allowance on travelling.
Another requirement is to have a building that is multi-purpose and bigger than it presently needs, to cater for the growing demand for services that is expected in the coming years.
One possible building is located behind Sheffield Cathedral - due to it being ‘under offer’, this has currently been taken off the list.
Another building is located near the interchange in Hillsborough - this is still being considered as a feasible option.
Other buildings are still being looked at, though a maximum cap of £750,000 has been put in place.
The Snowdrop Project is hoping to collect £450,000 from fundraising, with the remainder being funded by a mortgage.
The Tribe Foundation has been supporting the charity since 2018 and is committed to raising £100,000 through individuals taking part in extreme sporting events.
An example is the six-day Run for Love physical challenge in The Azores, from November 23 to December 1, which the Snowdrop Project CEO and founder Lara Bundock is taking part in herself.
Lara is also hopeful of extra boosts to the fundraising campaign from grants or national funding.
The Snowdrop Project steps in after government support stops, which usually happens after just 45 days following initial contact.
Although the Home Office announced recently that it would scrap the ‘45 day rule’ and replace it with a needs-based system, this will take some years to take effect.
Lara, who previously worked in government safe houses, said: “I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing knowing that that was a problem.”
She initially set up a training program, supported by volunteers, to provide long-lasting support for those affected but has also been battling misconceptions around trafficking victims.
Lara said: “The biggest misunderstanding is why people come here, or even how they live...for example, not understanding the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee.
"A lot of the people we are supporting can’t go home because it is too risky and too dangerous, so we need to help people to integrate here and provide support for them."
The Snowdrop Project provides psychosocial interventions following referrals from health officials.
The charity supports people from the age of 18 and their oldest victim is in her 60s.
Present clients are from Albania, Romania, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, some African countries and the UK.
The organisation, in association with Hope English School, provides weekly English classes for survivors.
The organisation also offers paid work-experience opportunities.
Learning English allows individuals to engage within the community more comfortably and reduces social isolation.
Improving communication skills also has long term benefits by providing survivors with better employment prospects for the future.
The Snowdrop Project aims to help survivors build friendships and develop new skills.
It does this through a range of activities, with the support of volunteers.
Sewing and dance classes, photography, film groups, as well as day trips, are just a few of the activities on offer.
The organisation also makes sure that religion and culture are not forgotten about - it celebrates occasions such as Christmas and Eid together, to promote community spirit.
The Snowdrop Project also operates a renovation program which includes cleaning, painting, decorating and sourcing furniture - this turns a house into a safe and habitable home.
So far, 43 survivors’ houses have been renovated.
One survivor, who asked not to be identified, said: “Long term support is crucial for any survivors recovery, without it you may as well not have been rescued at all. My mental health and physical health suffered hugely. In July 2015, I hit the jackpot - with the Snowdrop Project.
"It was the first charity to provide adequate and trained long term support. Having a support worker, counsellor and supportive community has changed my life drastically.
"I cannot begin to tell you the impact and difference long term support has, but I can guarantee you that if I hadn’t had Snowdrop, I would not be here today."
The charity is appealing for more volunteers or fundraisers to get involved.
It is always keen for anyone who wants to fundraise, through hosting events or regular donating.
Opportunities range from teaching sewing to casework, raising awareness and advocacy.
Lara is encouraging individuals and businesses to donate, in exchange for one of Snowdrop Project’s ‘community rooms’ to be honoured with their name.
The organisation is currently planning a ‘black tie’ charity dinner in October, which will raise awareness of their work.
All proceeds will go towards the charity’s new building.
For more information about the Snowdrop project, see snowdropproject.co.uk/