What Freedom from Torture means to me: A blog by fundraiser Angela Kirk
As Major Grants Fundraiser at Freedom from Torture, Angela Kirk raises funds from large grant-making bodies such as the Big Lottery Fund. She talks about what Freedom from Torture means to her.
I started working at Freedom from Torture in June 2002, two years after the Government began dispersing asylum seekers – including our clients – outside of London. Freedom from Torture secured funding to provide for torture survivors living in the North West who were then being referred to services that had no facilities to cater for their unique needs.
Working throughout the UK
As the Regional Development Team Administrator, I was the team's eyes and ears. Answering emails and phone calls provided me with a fascinating insight into our work. A torture survivor once called me from Sunderland: 'I don't know where I am. Can you send me a doctor?' he said.
There were a range of challenges for torture survivors. The housing was terrible, for example. We visited a housing provider in Leicester which was infested with rats – and the women were too scared to come out of their rooms.
We were working on everything that affected torture survivors – from healthcare to housing – and we encountered racism and prejudice. Many practitioners did not know how to work with survivors of torture or with interpreters, but we also discovered pockets of support and knowledge.
Over three years, we built up networks and brought practitioners together to support them and discuss how they dealt with various issues. I think that the four regional centres are one of Freedom from Torture's greatest achievements. They acknowledge that we should help torture survivors wherever they live in the UK. After all, it is unlikely that any government will reverse the dispersal policy.
Finding local support
In 2005, I moved on to working with the committed supporters who run local groups. I really admire how busy people all over the UK give up their time and energy to raise money and awareness for Freedom from Torture. The volunteers are very knowledgeable and committed to human rights. It is quite humbling.
My work in the fundraising team continued and I became a grants fundraiser two-and-a-half years later. One of the things I like most about my job is meeting with clinicians and learning about our work and the difficulties we face. They are so inspirational and I leave the meetings thinking: I want to raise money for this!
Inspired by clients
Freedom from Torture's clinical psychiatrist told me about a client who had undergone horrific torture and had become suicidal. He went on to be offered a place at Cambridge University. Torture didn't take over his life and he could move on from it.
Working at Freedom from Torture helps me appreciate that I can be critical of the government and know that I won't then get a knock at my door in the middle of the night. I don't think people appreciate the freedom we have. One Freedom from Torture client told a friend on the street that he was worried about his business in the light of high taxes. He was standing next to a plain-clothed police officer, who arrested him and he was detained for six months.
There are so many fundraising jobs out there, but you need to be really committed about what you are fundraising for. Freedom from Torture is important to me. We do a lot of things that no one else does – unusual and creative things, such as the Natural Growth Project – which are the right form of help for that individual.
We also advocate and campaign for our clients, which is something that is now necessary. Unless we change the Government's culture of disbelief, we cannot improve the lives of our clients. Does the Government, who think that Afghanistan is now safe, fancy a day trip to Kabul?
People should have a chance to put their torture behind them, it's only civilised.