Helen Bamber Foundation

working with survivors of cruelty

  • Our Purpose: The Helen Bamber Foundation is a UK-based human rights organisation, formed in April 2005 to help rebuild lives and inspire a new self-esteem in survivors of gross human rights violations.
  • Our Aims: At the Helen Bamber Foundation we believe that survivors are by nature courageous and resilient. We seek to draw upon their inner resources providing them with the support they need to recover from past trauma, deal with current hardships and lay the foundations for a better future … (Purpose 1/2).

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Address: The Helen Bamber Foundation, 5 Museum House, 25 Museum Street, London WC1A 1JT, UK;
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Purpose 2/2 … /The Need: The world continues to manufacture victims at an alarming rate and yet durable solutions remain as illusive as ever. 

When one considers the crisis in Darfur, the blight known as Guantanamo Bay, the casualties of the war on terror or victims of the modern day slave trade, the mind begins to boggle at the scale of the need. And yet only a small percentage of the victims of these human rigths catastrophes ever reach the shores of the UK.

The people seeking refuge in the UK, hope it will be a haven of safety, compassion and freedom from oppression. However, many fall foul of an asylum system that is often arbitrary and unfair in its decision making. They are caught in the cross hairs of hardening public attitudes and policy initiatives towards asylum seekers generally. Their plight is frequently met with ignorance, indifference or outright hostility.

The ‘problems’ experienced by survivors are not ‘purely clinical’. The demoralization and despair due to exile and forced migration often triggers symptoms of distress that are best understood as the psychological sequalae of human misery in which restitution does not reside purely within the medical or psychological domain. ‘Treatment’ must encompass a surviver’s need for justice, protection and humane treatment.

Human Rights Law recognizes the right of those who have suffered from gross human rights violations to treatment and other measures to alleviate the effects of these violations. Our responsibility as clinicians at the Helen Bamber Foundation is to assist survivor’s through appropriate therapeutic measures and to empower their efforts to recover.

The Context:

It is deeply disturbing that at the beginning of the 21st century, our capacity to commit atrocities against our fellow human beings remains undiminished. Considerable energy and thought has gone into eradicating torture, slavery and poverty, and yet every step forward is met with resistance. Slavery was abolished 200 years ago but we still buy and sell human beings for profit. A raft of international declarations universally condemns torture and yet it continues unabated.

We are becoming increasingly wary of outsiders. We shy away from their suffering. We suspect their motives. However, the measure of our humanity is reflected in the way we treat strangers – especially strangers so damaged and brutalised they can barely function. We must recognize our fear and not let it hinder offering assistance. The key question is – how can we work together to create the human and social changes needed to make a better world? The answer rests in our commitment to listen and learn from those whose suffering we find the most difficult to face.

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