Looking back on 2020
With it coming to the end of the year, Michelle our CEO, has taken the time to reflect on the past
12 months, and the impact Kairos has made…
Unbelievably it is December already. Well, 2020 has certainly been eventful! Kairos has more than doubled in size during the last 12 months. We have expanded our existing and established services (Feeling Safe, Outreach and Floating Support and Prison In-Reach) in addition to launching a new service called A Home of Her Own in partnership with Coventry Haven Women’s Aid (with funding from Homeless Link). This time last year we had 5 members of staff, who had supported 118 women during 2019. We now have 11 members of staff and have supported 165 women during 2020. A massive achievement in it’s own right, let alone when you add a global pandemic into the mix.
Our expansion was well-timed, as unfortunately COVID19 has led to an unprecedented increase in the numbers of vulnerable women requiring our support. We have witnessed first-hand the harsh and brutal impact that the pandemic has had on vulnerable women. The facts make for pretty grim reading. We have seen an increase in the numbers of women involved in street-based prostitution, an increase in the numbers of women self-harming or attempting suicide, an increase in the numbers of women making disclosures of rape or sexual assault, an increase in the numbers of women requiring housing support and an increase in the numbers of women involved in abusive or controlling relationships.
Responding to these challenges against a backdrop of operational constraints due to the COVID19 restrictions has inevitably been difficult and frustrating. Indeed, it’s easy to dismiss 2020 as a year of fire-fighting and crisis management, where we have tried our best in impossible circumstances. But if we pause, take and a breath and reflect, we realise how far we have come and what the journey taught us. For me two things stand out about 2020.
Firstly, Kairos truly is a values driven organisation. Despite all the challenges we faced, we kept going! We made the bold decision not to Furlough any staff, despite the obvious financial challenge and risk this brings. If there is anything I have learnt during my time with Kairos, it’s this…… we never walk away. We provide unconditional support to some of the most vulnerable women in Coventry, we are the ones standing by their sides when something goes wrong, when their recovery journey takes a step back, when they have no one else to turn too; we are there. Unquestioning, uncompromising and totally committed to supporting them in whatever they need. So we remained true to our core values and we kept going, providing a lifeline of support to vulnerable women throughout the pandemic.
Secondly, we can do things differently and think outside the box. We have adapted and innovated our services in order to ensure we were able to continue to support vulnerable women. We have delivered virtual support groups for young women at risk of sexual exploitation and launched a series of online awareness sessions in order to increase resilience against the risks of sexual exploitation. Without the COVID19 pandemic, Kairos probably would not have made the bold step into virtual support as it would have never been considered a priority. But this type of virtual support is something that we will now continue to develop and will become a central part of our operating model going forward.
We have seen this kind flexibility and adaptation replicated across our partner organisations, where previous systems and processes that didn’t meet the needs of our service users have been adjusted, relaxed or completely removed. Many of these changes have been hugely beneficial to the vulnerable women we support.
So while 2020 has been a challenging year, we have also achieved so much, growing the organisation both in terms of capacity but also our capability to adapt and change. This means we are much better placed to provide more intense outcome focussed support to all our service users. I feel incredibly proud of all the staff at Kairos who have gone above and beyond to support our service users during the last 12 months. From delivering emergency food and self-care packages, to providing an evening Outreach service during lockdown, to sleeping in a garden shed for 21 nights, there is literally nothing the team wouldn’t do to support our service users and raise awareness of the issues they face.
But despite the imminent roll out of a vaccine, the next 12 months will be exceptionally difficult as we continue to manage the increasing demand for our services, alongside the on-going financial challenges. Kairos struggles to find funding and donations generally, you won’t find us shaking tins outside a supermarket, we don’t get largescale donations through individual fundraising and sponsorship. We struggle to attract donations due to the many assumptions and stereotypes that are associated with prostitution and sexual exploitation. By far the toughest misconception to overcome is the widely held belief that the women we support are not deserving of care because their free choices have led them to where they are now. This could not be further from the truth. The majority of the women we support who are involved in street-based prostitution were exploited into prostitution as children, some as young as 14-15 years old. Whilst there is an increasing awareness and recognition regarding the prevalence of Child Sexual Exploitation, there is less understanding that those vulnerable girls who have been abused and sexually exploited eventually become women. Women who struggle to deal with the trauma that they have experienced, who as a result often to turn to illicit drug use as a coping mechanism and in turn become caught up in prostitution as a means to fund their addiction and self-manage their trauma. These women are survivors. They are warriors. They deserve respect, dignity and support to help them exit street prostitution, flee controlling relationships and make positive steps forward. Tough times should be a brief transition in someone’s life, not a life choice or a life sentence. So if you have supported us in the past, or have previously thought about supporting us, please support us now. We need donations more than ever if we are to continue to survive this crisis and provide vital support to vulnerable women.
If you would like to donate, then please click here.