CEO of Stop the Traffik

AS the CEO of Stop the Traffik, Ruth Dearnley has spent the last ten years campaigning for an end to the horrific modern-day slave trade.

Ruth tells Jo Duckles about her journey and why she is so excited that Stop the Traffik is this year's Financial Times Seasonal Appeal partner.

I met Ruth at her home, the vicarage in Wendover, where she started by telling me about the launch of Stop the Traffik on Freedom Day, 25 March 2007, which marked the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of Transatlantic Slave Trade.

The former teacher had always felt drawn to human rights and advocacy work. Her Christian journey began as she was growing up in Upton, on the Wirral.

"My parents had a strong Christian faith and my faith journey continued when I went to university.

"I have never sensed a space where God does not exist but my faith developed and changed a lot in my understanding that God is as much mystery as known."

Fundamentally I think Jesus knew what he was talking about when he summed it all up with 'love God and love your neighbour as yourself'. We are called to work that out."

Inspired by Grace Allen in the television drama LA Law, Ruth went on to read law at Newcastle University.

"For me the star in this American television legal drama was a character that inspired me. In my university interview I asked the professor if he had heard of LA Law! He was taken aback but warmed to the idea that I had been inspired to speak up, craft an argument and advocate for those who had no voice."

After university Ruth followed in her mother's footsteps and became a teacher, moving to London where she worked in the East End, for an inspiring headteacher called Hilary Chalke.

"It was a Church of England school where 100 per cent of my class were Bengali the year I arrived. I learnt so much about other faiths, living alongside each other and the experience affirmed what that meant for me.

"The people around me who served selflessly and who had nurtured a deep faith, were the people who were much less fearful of difference, embraced their neighbour and included all."

It was in London that Ruth met and married the Revd Mark Dearnley, who is now the Vicar of the Wendover and Halton Benefice. Shortly after having their first child, Charlie, who is now 21, they moved to Hook, in Chessington.

There they had Esther, who is now 20. At that time Ruth was a member of the Spring Harvest leadership team, where the seeds of the idea of Stop the Traffik were first sown.

Steve Chalke MBE, is a Baptist minister and the Founder of Stop the Traffik, which was created by initially bringing together organisations that were interested in preventing and raising awareness of people trafficking.

"We marked the 200th anniversary by creating Freedom Day to recognise that the work of Wilberforce and many others was historically significant, but the challenge to us is the extraordinary scale of people trafficking in our world today.

"By its nature it's hidden and we need to highlight how traffickers exploit and deceive. Traffickers seek to operate in shadows and Stop the Traffik is about shining a light into dark places," says Ruth.

Stop the Traffik became a registered charity in 2008 and has been focused on the prevention of the crime. It seeks to empower people to take action, helping people to understand what trafficking is, how it affects them and what can be done about it.

"It's about helping the mother whose children may be vulnerable to traffickers that regularly come visiting their community. It may be the prison officer who doesn't recognise that some of their inmates have been victims of trafficking.

"It is the teacher who may not realise the young girl playing truant is being expertly groomed by the trafficker as she stays out of the classroom," says Ruth. She talked passionately about the campaigns Stop the Traffik has launched over the years.

These include Chocolate Unwrapped, highlighting the plight of children as young as 10 who are trafficked, beaten and forced to work in dangerous conditions collecting cocoa beans on the Ivory Coast.

"The chocolate campaign enables us to tell the story of trafficking to small children," says Ruth.

There is also the Gift Box, a large, attractive box placed on a street.

Passers-by are invited inside, where they find themselves in a dark cell.

This highlights the attractive offers of work made by traffickers to vulnerable people, who then find themselves conned into a life of gruelling labour or prostitution. The last decade has seen Steve Chalke become the Special Adviser on Community Action to the United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.

Stop the Traffik has made it a priority to work in partnership with a host of organisations and individuals.

Ruth is excited that its partners are as diverse as Greater Manchester Police, technology and marketing global experts who are supporting Stop the Traffik to use an app that will help people anonymously report suspicious activity.

She was delighted that Stop the Traffik's fifth Global Conference took place at St Mary's, Wendover, with delegates staying in the homes of members of the congregation.

Previously the conferences have been held in Chicago, Mumbai, Rio and London.

"We had 50 people from nine countries. Many of them volunteer their time and the parish offered amazing hospitality. I have personally been supported by the community in Wendover over the ten years we have been here and so many people have offered skills, time and resource to support our work."

But, as no one fully knows the scale of the trafficking problem, locally or globally, Ruth is passionate about seeing Stop the Traffikexpand its work and achieve its vision.

Earlier this year she went through a rigorous process resulting in the charity being selected to be the Financial Times Seasonal Appeal Partner. The appeal runs through December 2015 and January 2016, to raise money and increase awareness. Over the last ten years, the Financial Times has raised £16 million for various charities through the annual appeal.

Ruth added: "I am always moved and encouraged by the incredible people who give their time, generosity and skills to our work.

"It's been the sharing of knowledge, tools, energy and resources that makes the vision come alive. I'm grateful for the support of hundreds of thousands of people who are a part of the global movement and urge us all to continue or join in to work together to Stop the Traffik."

Last month Stop the Traffik launched a report to inform and resource investors and directors across business to consider risks and the impact of trafficking.

Page last updated: Monday 14th December 2015 11:23 AM
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