It looks like you are using an out of date browser.
Please update your browser in order to use this website.

News  › 
Blogs and Opinion Volunteers help trafficking survivor found in wheelie bin

Volunteers help trafficking survivor found in wheelie bin

A long-standing volunteer at Hope for Justice tells the story of how a survivor of human trafficking was discovered in a wheelie bin.

Hope for Justice’s Preston Abolition Group were pivotal in identifying the survivor and helping him return home safely. 

This was the first ‘real-life’ trafficking situation that the group encountered after it was set up in 2009, but the story hasn’t been told before.

Fiona Dykes, a founding member of the Abolition Group, recounts what happened and explains how the group continues to play a vital role in combatting modern slavery.

Identifying and supporting a survivor of modern slavery

Two members of the Preston Abolition Group were walking in the Preston area when they discovered a young man in an industrial wheelie bin outside a row of shops.

A street scene in Manchester. Image, Unsplash

He had been sleeping in the bin at night for shelter and safety. 

The couple, who had recently been trained to spot the signs of modern slavery by Hope for Justice, were concerned and spoke with the man. It became clear that he was a survivor of human trafficking. 

He had applied for what he thought was a legitimate job in Bradford and then travelled to the UK from his home country. But on arrival, his passport and documents were taken from him and he was forced to work in a factory for little or no pay. 

Fiona said: “Together, the Abolition Group, the church and Hope for Justice were able to support this young man. He desperately wanted to get home to his family. The couple contacted Crossgate Church in Preston, who in turn reported the situation to Hope for Justice. Another couple from the Abolition Group were able to offer the survivor a room in their home and they provided him with shelter, food and care. Meanwhile, Hope for Justice arranged emergency documents for the survivor to return home. A member of staff from Hope for Justice accompanied him on the flight to ensure he remained safe and was not re-exploited. 

“As a Christian, I felt God was going before us. He was saying, ‘Here is a real-life scenario for you to get engaged in’. It was those powerful first-hand experiences that gave us wind in our sails to continue.” 

Moved to action after learning about modern slavery

In 2008, Fiona was part of a group of Christians who attended an event called The Stand. Organised by a small group of people passionate about seeing an end to modern slavery, the event brought together nearly 6,000 people. It was the early beginnings of Hope for Justice. 

Appalled at the information they learned about modern slavery and inspired by the stories they heard, the friends set up an Abolition Group in Preston the following year. Led by Derek Prout, they started meeting at Longton Community Church (now Crossgate Church), in Preston. 

The Preston Abolition Group is one of a growing number of Hope for Justice Abolition Groups. These are collectives of people who are working in their community to raise awareness and funds to combat modern slavery.

Michele Carter, who leads the ‘Sunrise to Sunset’ events at Valley Church, with Preston Abolition Group leader Derek Prout

Fiona said: “I was one of the early members. We were connected into the local church and we were very active. We were involved in prayer, fundraising and raising awareness. We felt like we were part of an activist group. And we stayed engaged and connected into the charity because of the good communication, through the annual conferences and through training. 

“We represented a group of professionals who spanned quite a spectrum of expertise. Three of the group have served as Street Pastors and one still does. Over the last 15 years, we have identified several trafficking victims and reported these situations to the police and Hope for Justice. This is testimony to the comprehensive Spot the Signs training that Hope for Justice has done with the police and other organisations.” 

Preston Abolition Group

The Preston Abolition Group has had as many as 40 members in the past. There are currently eight members with representatives from Valley Church, Crown Lane Free Methodist Church and Crossgate Church. 

Over the years, the group has held many awareness and fundraising activities, including a musical event, ‘Singing for Freedom’, and climbing the 420 steps up The Big One, the famous 235-foot rollercoaster at Blackpool Pleasure Beach. 

Fiona joined Hope for Justice staff and volunteers in doing The Great North Swim on Lake Windermere in 2016.

Fiona Dykes (third from left) joined Hope for Justice staff for the Great North Swim

The Abolition Group has also held sponsored head shaves, walks, quiz nights, a wine tasting event and celebration event to mark its 10th anniversary. 

Members organised for a ‘Hope for Justice Rose’ to be designed and sold, to raise money for the charity. These are still available to purchase at Fryer’s Garden Centre.

Valley Church, attended by three members of the Abolition Group, including Fiona and Derek, organises an annual fundraising event called ‘Sunrise to Sunset’. The charity fun day has included running, walking, cycling, football and a quiz night. In 2023, the donation was trebled by a philanthropist and again this year, the funding was double thanks to philanthropic match funding.

The Sunrise to Sunset event raises vital awareness and funds for Hope for Justice

Seeing the impact of Hope for Justice’s work

Fifteen years since the formation of the Preston Abolition Group, Fiona explains why she continues to support Hope for Justice and how she has seen the organisation grow “exponentially”. 

“Since those early beginnings, watching the charity grow exponentially and globally has been a huge motivating factor in my involvement”, Fiona continued. “Seeing a charity grow like that shows it is definitely going in a good direction. 

“The other thing that appeals to me is the strategic approach of the charity, working through rescue, restoration, education and empowerment in communities to try and prevent human trafficking. For example, education such as spotting the signs. It was key to us identifying that first victim. The roll-out of this training has been amazing to see. Before, it was not really spoken about in our communities, but now lots of people, the police, healthcare professionals, ordinary people, know how to spot the signs of modern slavery. I think that awareness raising has been really important. 

“If you, or your church, engage with Hope for Justice, this is the kind of impact you can have in your community.” 

Volunteering with Hope for Justice

In 2020, Fiona retired from her job as Professor of Maternal and Infant Health at University of Central Lancashire (UCLAN), where she led a research unit. 

In 2022, she joined Hope for Justice as a volunteer one day per week, giving her time and skills generously and wholeheartedly. Fiona attends events on behalf of Hope for Justice, helps run stands and assists with speaking engagements among many other tasks. 

She works closely with our Partnerships Manager Lauren Pearson, carrying out work which she describes as “really enjoyable and meaningful”. 

Lauren said: “Fiona helps with absolutely anything and everything that we could possibly need. Each week I give her a whole host of tasks; she sends out resources for our fundraisers including t-shirts and handouts, she helps us to plan conferences, she enters information onto our CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system, sends emails, writes cards, the list is endless. I could not do my job without Fiona, she is wonderful. We work really well together, and she always comes into the office with a smile on her face.”