The Helen Bamber Foundation (HBF) is a human rights charity based in London which was founded by Helen Bamber in 2005. Our specialist team of therapists, doctors and legal experts hold an international reputation for providing therapeutic care, medical consultation, legal protection and practical support to survivors of human rights violations.
“The crucial lesson to master is how to hold, contain and sustain people who have suffered immense atrocity and loss.” – Helen Bamber
HBF grew from the recognition that people who have suffered any kind of prolonged inter-personal violence – whether from human trafficking; war; community, domestic or gender-based violence – present with similar physical and psychological symptoms to torture survivors. The Foundation extends the model of care that Helen has developed over decades for people who suffered state torture to include a wider range of survivors who had previously lacked such specialist support.
Abuses of human rights are taking place in 150 countries around the world. 30% of people requesting international protection in the UK are estimated to have experienced torture or serious harm. 30 million people are estimated to be living under conditions of slavery worldwide; more than at any time during the transatlantic slave trade. Even these figures are unlikely to fully represent the scale of the problem because of systematic failures in recognising survivors, flaws in immigration processes and the clandestine nature of extreme human cruelty.
“Our society will be judged by how we respond to those to whom we owe nothing.” – Helen Bamber
Despite the prevalence of torture, trafficking and human rights violations worldwide, many survivors find that their account is disbelieved by the UK authorities. Statistics do not show the trials that people face in seeking refugee status recognition in the UK: the arduous, often distressing legal procedures they have to go through, the level of socio-economic deprivation and danger they live in, the realities of detention or imprisonment, and the hidden injuries of trauma, isolation and loss.
We work with the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society, those who are haunted by memories of entrapment, rape and torture and who suffer unbearable flashbacks and nightmares. They come to us from over 90 countries and have often lost the crucial ability to trust, and form positive relationships with others. Our clients often face ongoing problems relating to poverty, destitution or unsafe housing, as well as having to cope with complex and distressing legal procedures. Some have been imprisoned or detained in the UK or in other countries, or are suffering continuing threats from traffickers and other perpetrators against themselves and their families. All of our clients come to us with debilitating trauma symptoms, serious physical and psychological injuries in need of immediate attention, and can feel suicidal.
HBF does not wait until survivors are counted in official statistics, or formally recognised for the violations they have suffered. We work ‘here and now’ to treat each person with dignity and help them with access to health care, legal advice and human rights. We adjust the care we give in accordance with changing circumstances and challenges clients face. We help our clients gradually establish a therapeutic relationship of trust, which can eventually enable them to form safe, restorative and stabilising relationships in the wider community. This is an intricate process, essential for survivors’ safety, well-being, ability to re-build and move forward with their lives.
“One cannot provide therapy to someone if they have no food, shelter and are threatened with return… What can be more anti-therapeutic?” – Helen Bamber.
Our Model of Integrated Care Includes:
We work to make sure clients feel the Foundation is a place of professionalism and community. We maintain a consistent, safe environment for people who may not have any other ‘safe place’ to go. We work to increase their ability to recall and articulate their experiences, find a creative way to come to terms with what has happened and navigate the complexities of everyday life in the future.
Our ambition is to create and share a model of care for survivors which is accessible to clinicians and practitioners everywhere. Quality of care, support and protection given to the most vulnerable people in any community helps to break the inter-generational impact of human rights violations and shines a light on the identity and actions of perpetrators.