On the frontlines of human trafficking aftercare

Recently, I was lucky enough to attend a session aimed at frontline and administrative staff working in human trafficking, giving me a good idea of the kind of training that the Chab Dai coalition offers its member NGOs. Led by paediatrician, health consultant and founder of Relentless, Dr Katherine Welch, the one-day "Essential Health Components of an Aftercare Assistance Program" Workshop covered common issues facing professionals working to support those affected by human trafficking and abuse.

Understanding the key issues

The morning session was spent identifying those common issues, discussing best practices such as ‘universal precautions’ to do with hygiene and patient care, confidentiality and recording medical information. As many of the participants I met work in environments such as shelters and re-training centres and are used to meeting with vulnerable, injured and distressed clients, Dr Welch talked through the importance of seeing beyond physical symptoms to the root mental causes they might suggest. There was even advice on advocacy - on how to assert patient rights and challenge medical practitioners if necessary.

“You learned from the health training with Dr Katherine. She took an interest in the topics and shared them well…thank you for having this kind of practical workshop” Chandra Chap, Garden of Hope Foundation - Pleroma Home for Girls 

The tools to fight human trafficking

After lunch, it was time to drill down to more practical tips and tools to take away. The longer term continuity of care - what hospital, counselling and family planning services a client may need access to – was discussed, as well as everyday challenges that are not always obvious, such as client awareness of basic meal-planning and nutrition.

The day ended with a look at some example case studies. Participants split into groups to discuss what their responses would be in the face of certain scenarios, from attempted suicide to re-integration and sexual harassment.

Supporting each other in the field

The response to the training session on the day was really positive and everyone I spoke with seemed to be on the same page when it came to sensitive, case-by-case handling of their work. Participants also had the chance to give feedback and make suggestions for future workshops.

Working in Communications, I don’t have direct experience of what working in anti human trafficking actually means for care workers, nurses, residential managers and other frontline staff. But as the session ended, I felt I had gained a real insight into the day-to-day questions that arise from aftercare, how every precaution must be taken and every consideration to the client’s situation, history and feelings must be made.

It seemed to me that training like this is incredibly valuable to those who do work in this often harrowing field, not only for sharing knowledge and experience, but for supporting each other to carry on.

"Katherine was so knowledgeable in the area which was really helpful, and it was good having medical practitioners from Phnom Penh as well, to give local advice. The training was just what I needed." Ellen Wood, Agape International Missions.

Article written by Laura Gavin