Fifteen members were welcomed to our October meeting on ZOOM by our President, Sarah. This was a first for most of us and it took us some time to join the meeting with much laughter as we pressed “mute” or other keys by accident. It was lovely to see everyone again especially as some of us had not met up since March.
Tina was able to report that she had sent £50 to ACWW and Eileen H. had sent £25 to the Annual Raffle. Sarah reported that Linda would lay the wreath at the War Memorial on Sunday 7th November and that £50 had been donated for this. Next year`s programme will include wherever possible the talks which have been cancelled this year. The Newsletter has been well received and it was decided this should be repeated and contributions should be sent to Sarah or Linda. The next meeting on 11th November, when the subject will be “Mapping Birds on the Ascension Islands”, will also be on Zoom (we should all be experts by then)
Sarah then welcomed our speaker Helen Mathews. Helen is an author concentrating on social issues in her novels. Helen starting by explaining how she had left her well paid job in business to take up writing which had always been her ambition. The novel that she was concentrating on in her talk was called “After Leaving the Village”. This book deals with the lives of two women - a girl of seventeen from a village in Albania and a woman of thirty seven who is now living in London, but came from a village in Wales. Their paths eventually cross.
Helen explained to us that Albania was one of the main sources of human trafficking but that it was also prevalent in Great Britain as the term just means moving people around and exploiting those concerned, usually for sexual purposes or forced labour. As part of her preparation for the book Helen visited Albania and was pleased to find that it was how she had imagined it with poor villages but lovely scenery and historic remains. For many years it had been under a strict communist dictatorship and shut off from the outside world. Now it had a much more open society welcoming visitors although poverty led many to seek a life elsewhere. Young people were easy prey for criminal gangs who coerced them to leave and then forced them into becoming slave labour living in appalling conditions with no money and no means of escape.
Helen then outlined some of the ways slave labour could be identified and described the work of the anti-slavery charity Unseen U.K. for which she was an ambassador. This Charity provides refuge and medical help and is instrumental in getting work permits so people can stay in this country or arrange for them to return home. Their work often results in the trafficking gangs being prosecuted and imprisoned. The Charity is helped by information provided by the public and she urged people who thought a situation to be suspicious to contact them or the police.
Sarah thanked Helen for the wonderful insight she had given into the subject. Everyone considered that the talk had been both informative and thought provoking. Helen did not want a fee for the evening and asked if we would buy a copy of each of her three books instead. We were delighted to do this.
The books in question are
“After Leaving the Village” – The subject of the evening`s talk.
“Lies Behind the Ruin” and
I am sure we are all looking forward to reading them.