Sheffield charity Snowdrop wins national award for work supporting trafficking survivors

A Sheffield charity has won a national award for its work supporting survivors of trafficking across the region – and now plans to expand and help more survivors.

By Lisa Wong
Tuesday, 15th June 2021, 1:48 pm

Snowdrop Project has been declared a winner in the Centre for Social Justice Awards 2021, an annual awards ceremony which honours the best grassroot, poverty-fighting charities and social enterprises across Britain.

The charity was shortlisted from a number of different social justice charities, which were categorised by varying income levels.

Chief executive of Snowdrop Project, Lara Bundock, said: “It’s really exciting to be acknowledged for the work we’re doing.”

Lara Bundock, founder and director of Snowdrop Project, pictured with the award. Picture: Chris Etchells

She told how the win provided more recognition for the charity and the work it does but she described it as “not just an award”.

Lara added: “It provides a platform to be able to highlight the importance of what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, and why it should be done more.”

There are currently 72 individuals being supported by Snowdrop Project, with a further 42 individuals on the waiting list for counselling services.

Despite seeing an initial drop in service users at the start of the pandemic - linked to the fact that there was a pause in individuals leaving safe houses - the charity saw the demand for services increase by up to three times as the backlog of cases started to come through.

The Snowdrop Project in Sheffield have won a national award for the work it does supporting trafficking survivors. Picture: Chris Etchells

Although it is likely that the pandemic has contributed to the overall increase in demand, it is also thought to have contributed to the increase in more complex cases.

Issues, such as isolation and loneliness, experienced by some existing service users prior to lockdown, may have been exacerbated by lockdown.

Lara said: “There were lots of needs going unattended - the complexity of living conditions, mental health problems.”

As well as more complex cases being presented, Lara told how there has also been an increase in the number of male service users.

Some of the Snowdrop Project team pictured outside the charity's new home on Castle Street. Picture: Chris Etchells

According to the NRM, which is the national referral system for identifying and supporting survivors in the UK, males make up 68 percent of the survivor community, and it is predicted that this may increase in a few years time.

Lara told how the men may come from a background where they have been trafficked for slave labour or criminal exploitation, for example.

She suggested that the statistics may be due to people being advised to stay at home throughout the pandemic, perhaps making certain types of exploitation easier to identify, and other types of exploitation less obvious.

Lara explained: “The demand for labour was still there. A lot of other stuff is harder to identify or pick up on, for example, sexual exploitation often happens underground or online.”

Counselling waiting room at the Mid City House location.

Being a charity which started off providing support for mainly female survivors – currently around 90 percent - it wants to ensure that appropriate support measures are put in place for male survivors in anticipation of a continuing trend in the coming years.

Despite having just moved into its first permanent building, Snowdrop Project has plans to expand further.

The charity’s new home on Castle Street, will also be shared with other charities in the city who will rent out space from it, in an attempt to create a ‘hub’ where ideas can be shared.

Through different organisations working together, it is hoped that more services can be provided across Sheffield and beyond.

New partnerships will also ensure Snowdrop Project’s model for supporting trafficking survivors will gain a wider reach.

Throughout lockdown, the charity, like many others, were forced to make alternative arrangements to ensure people were not without support.

Volunteers help with renovations for survivors' homes.

Snowdrop Project did not stop any services, but instead offered them virtually via the phone, WhatsApp and Zoom.

For those who lacked technology resources, they were able to borrow laptops and tablets through the charity’s Digital Library scheme.

This ensured service users were able to continue with their counselling sessions, and for young people, it gave them the ability to access school or college work.

Although some regular classes had to be paused, a baking class was started in lockdown, which has proved to be popular.

Winning the CSJ award will enable Snowdrop Project to continue providing the services it offers to more individuals across the region.

The charity has recently established a base in Barnsley and is continuing to grow its staff members, having recently welcomed a new caseworker to the team.

It also wants to expand the number of volunteers, which will allow for a wider range of activities to be offered, from one to one to group sessions.

Furthermore, it hopes to expand the counselling services it provides, looking at how different pathways can be used in helping those who have been affected by trauma.

Another ambition is to develop ways at how the charity can better support the children and dependants of survivors, as they are often forgotten about.

Additional benefits that come with winning the award include funding in the form of a £10,000 grant, and the opportunity to be profiled in front of hundreds of leading figures from across the country, with the chance to work with key people such as policy makers.

A film has also been produced to showcase what Snowdrop Project does, featuring survivors who have been helped by the charity so far.

In the film, Lara concludes: “One of our survivors said, ‘long term support is crucial to every survivor’s recovery and without it, you may as well have not been rescued at all’. That’s why we do what we do.”

For more information, visit here.