Just before Christmas we spoke with Suzette Jones, the Health and Wellbeing Adviser for the Diocese of Guildford.
Suzette has lived and worked in Surrey for many years, the last eight of which she has spent working for the diocese as part of the Communities Engagement Team; raising awareness on health & social issues, including modern slavery. Suzette is a registered mental health nurse which she describes as an enjoyable challenge!
Suzette, do you know what kinds of modern slavery are going on in the Diocese of Guildford?
Well we probably know in Surrey that all the main types of slavery are happening: domestic servitude, sexual exploitation, labour including nail bars and car washes, and criminal activity such as cannabis farms. Not forgetting child exploitation.
It sounds like you’ve got everything!
Yes we do really! We have this ever-flowing movement of people. The M3, M25 and the A3 flow through Surrey which stretches from the ports at Southampton and Portsmouth through to central London. 50% of victims are trafficked through London and we are a major route into central London. We are right on the border of the M25 going to Dover and we are linked to Heathrow and Gatwick and other major routes throughout the UK.
Do you think the people in the area know that this is going on all around them?
Yes some do. But many people think it’s all from overseas and they don’t actually understand that we have people who are born here, that are trafficked up and down the country. Also many people think it’s just the sex trade, although someone did say to me yesterday that they were concerned about a car wash, and were duly given the number of the Modern Slavery Helpline to report their concerns. I think people are becoming more aware, we just need to raise awareness.
What do you have planned in the diocese in 2018 to raise awareness of the issue?
We’re promoting talks to churches and taking every opportunity to raise awareness, really pushing that out in 2018.
We also want to involve schools and colleges in an art exhibition all in aid of partnership building and raising public awareness. We think it will be aimed at young people aged 14 upwards, and have the theme of freedom, breaking the chains. Getting it discussed in schools and colleges, we believe will really raise the profile of the issue.
What’s the one thing you would like everyone in the diocese to know about modern slavery?
That it is in our diocese, that it is on our doorstep, and for them to listen, to see, almost to touch the cries of the enslaved, whether they’re in a block of flats, a terraced house, or in a gated development. They’re all God’s people and they’re bought and sold like commodities, just to be disposed of when they’re no longer needed, like old rags. And that’s not right. It’s wrong, there’s not another word, it’s wrong.
What drives you to do this kind of work?
For me it’s always about people, I like people! Even if they’re quite difficult I quite like people. And for me, with a faith background, it’s about the love of Christ and if you put Christ at the centre then one has to think well, we’re all Christ’s people. It takes an awful lot for someone to get out of modern slavery, if you’re being trafficked. The invisible strings that hold you are incredibly strong. They are chains, they’re not visible but they’ll certainly hold you. So I think it’s really important that we give people the opportunity to break out of those chains, though that might be easier said than done.
quick fire questions
Favourite Meal? I like salmon. I’m a vegetarian, but I still eat fish, but also any Italian meal is very nice
Cats or dogs? I’m a tortoise person. As I sit here our house tortoise is charging around the house. He has hibernated but he’s woken up and he’s on a jolly here today. I love cats and dogs but my heart goes out to tortoises! They’re fascinating creatures.
Coffee or tea? Coffee, I’m a coffee person, I like a good coffee.
What did you want to be when you grew up? A survivor. I just wanted to survive. That might say a lot about my background, but I had no burning ambition, I just needed to know that I had to survive.
Dream holiday destination? Italy every time. I love Italy. I like the Amalfi Coast, I like coast, sea , sunshine, food, the Italians, their way of life, the churches… I like to just sit. I’m a meditator so for me you just sit and enjoy.
If you live in the Diocese of Guildford and you would like to get involved in the work Suzette is doing, you can contact her by email.