Story 77 - Ella's
By Suzie Abramian in conversation with Emily Chalke, 13/01/21.
‘More than 10,000 people were referred to the UK authorities as victims of modern slavery in 2019, a 52 per cent increase on the previous year. One in every five women in the UK will experience violence during her lifetime. Globally, this number rises to one in four.’ (ILO; Home Office)
Launched in 2014, London based charity Ella’s has a vision to see women free from slavery and exploitation. Their mission is to ensure that, ‘survivors of trafficking and exploitation have all they need to recover and build lives that are safe and free.’ (https://www.ellas.org.uk/who-we-are
) This is primarily done through two safe houses, long-term community support and by campaigning on issues of injustice. Uniquely, their support is not only for emergency situations but also for the long-term with survivors receiving on average 3 years of casework support.
Originally starting under a London Baptist Church, Kahaila, Ella’s became an independent charity in 2020 although it still retains several close links with local Baptist churches who partner in its work.
Ella’s Co-director and founder, Emily Chalke, reflects on the journey Ella’s has taken from the initial desire for Emily to help one woman called Ella to the wider call that Ella’s charity now has in providing regular, direct support for over 30 people and families, and help when needed for dozens more. Emily’s personal journey in this began when she was with BMS overseas, working in Thailand with women from all over the world who had suffered from sexual exploitation and trafficking. Back in London, Emily received a call for help from one of the women she had worked with overseas, Ella, who was in London working within the sex trade.
From this personal connection Emily saw how difficult it was to help Ella and how many gaps in the various systems there are for someone like Ella to fall through. Along with a research project Emily was undertaking at the time into aftercare for survivors of trafficking, Emily noticed the gaps in the system and especially that there was a desperate need for long-term support to help.
Initially setting out to try and fill some of those gaps for long term, post-government support, Emily says that although there were dreams about opening a safe house for women like Ella to come to that was not the clear intention from the start, nor could she ever have envisaged that what began with one individual could have grown into what is now an established charity for so many.
Over the years many different partnerships have developed, and continue to develop, with a wide variety of organisations such as professional health services, educational services, churches, and other community groups.
One of the most unique qualities to Ella’s is its personal approach to everyone they work with, which undoubtedly attributes to its growth and success. Astonishingly, there is not another charity like Ella’s in London which offers such long-term support and concern to help the women who come to them to work towards independence and self-sufficiency.
A further quality of Ella’s is the role that faith plays throughout all they do, described well on their website;
‘Our belief in the inherent value and potential of every person, and in the vital importance of love, kindness and justice, drive everything we do. A number of our staff are Christians, but not all. We work with survivors regardless of their religious beliefs, tailoring our support to every individual and empowering them to make their own decisions in order to live freely and independently’.
Looking ahead it is clear to see the need for Ella’s is still growing, particularly throughout the Coronavirus pandemic which has seen a rise in violence against women. Whilst the challenge of these needs can sometimes appear almost overwhelming it is encouraging to hear that despite the limitations of Covid-19, Ella’s is aiming to open a 3rd safe house in 2021 with further hopes of expanding what is done in London to elsewhere in the country.
Although this missional adventure may have unique qualities which not all are called to work within, Emily encourages anyone who may be setting out on a pioneering venture to pursue whatever passion that may be ‘burning within you’ and to find others to journey with you on it, particularly emphasising the importance of a team to work with and be supported by. Emily states that she could never have done this alone, being grateful for those who came alongside at the beginning and for the team she has now.
For more information about Ella’s please see;