Torture survivors, therapists and staff gathered in Birmingham’s Arts Centre to celebrate 10 years since the Freedom from Torture West Midlands Centre opened.
The Freedom from Torture West Midlands Centre has been home to torture survivors in the region, and has offered over 20,000 hours of therapy to clients from more than 70 countries since it opened in 2009.
With the backdrop of a hostile environment where asylum seekers and refugees struggle to access healthcare, accommodation and basic services, the West Midlands staff have played a vital role in rehabilitation and helping vulnerable people to rebuild their lives in the UK.
The evening celebrated the achievements and stories of torture survivors with short speeches from Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture, psychotherapist Debra Gordon and survivors of torture who have been helped by the centre.
Freedom from Torture CEO Sonya Sceats cuts the birthday cake
Isabel Barreto Stahlberg, Psychological Therapist said:
“The West Midlands Centre is like a family. What makes this centre so good is the people who work here and how welcome they make the clients feel. Things are getting more challenging with the hostile environment and anti-immigration feeling, and you can see the impact of that on our clients. Long waiting times for asylum decisions and closure of support centres affects their mental health and increases pressure on us.
“But we don’t work with victims, we work with survivors. And as the world seems to be a never-ending cycle of wars and conflict, it’s important to maintain hope and passion for the work. Our team has a very important role in the West Midlands and we are incurably optimistic.”
Debra Gordon, Psychological Therapist, said:
“We have worked very hard to ensure that the West Midlands Centre is the one place in our clients’ lives that is a safe, warm and clean. We have lots of blankets, sofas, art on the walls and plants which are all important for wellbeing.”
“What we see here is both horrendous and tremendous. It is amazing to see clients who have been through harrowing experiences of torture eventually transform as their recovery progresses”.
Gopal, Survivor Champion Co-ordinator and former Freedom from Torture client, said:
“I suffered discrimination and torture in my home country because of my ethnicity. When I first arrived here, I was scared, nervous and I didn’t know anyone in this country. The team told me not to worry and helped me to recover.
“The centre in Birmingham is like a family to me now. My therapy has finished but I still attend the groups because I have so many friends here. Sometimes, I will just come to the building and have a cup of tea. It feels like home.”
Sonya Sceats, Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture, said:
“The Freedom from Torture centre in Birmingham plays a vital role in helping torture survivors in the West Midlands area to get the help they need. I’m so proud of the West Midland team’s hard work and achievements.
“In these troubling times when values of compassion and fairness are under threat, and extremist views are becoming normalised in our society, the team still has many challenges ahead for delivering clinical and welfare services. The resilience and passion of our staff is an example to anyone working with people who have survived the worst human cruelty and who are seeking safety in Britain.”
Freedom from Torture birthday cake for the 10th anniversary of the West Midland Centre
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