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Our History

The Helen Bamber Foundation was set up to reflect the changes in patterns of global violence.

We put the Survivor at the centre of everything we do.

The Helen Bamber Foundation saw that it didn’t matter who was the instigator of the violence against a person, but rather the impact of that extreme violence on the individual.  That all Survivors needed safety, legal protection, medical and emotional support. 

Human Rights atrocities have always been part of history. The persecution of people by people has existed in our society in many horrific ways for thousands of years. We believe that everyone is born free and equal in dignity and rights. And we are doing everything we can to support and protect all human rights.

Helen Bamber, OBE
Helen Bamber OBE

The Helen Bamber Foundation’s journey started at the end of World War Two.

When Helen Bamber was 20, she entered Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp with one of the first relief and rehabilitation teams to work with Survivors. Helen understood that these Survivors needed care, so on her return to England she was appointed to the Committee for the Care of Children from Concentration Camps where she looked after 722 children from Auschwitz. 

In the aftermath of World War Two with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights which recognised that all people as being “born free and equal in dignity and rights.”

Helen Bamber after the Second World War
Helen Bamber after the Second World War

The world had to change.

So, Helen formed the first Medical Group of the British Section of Amnesty International. There was a lot to do. Survivors from Korea, Kenya, China, Algeria, Tibet, Eritrea, Turkey, Uganda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Northern Ireland, Bangladesh, Congo and many, many more needed care.  

Helen started working with Dr Maurice Pappworth and as a result the UK Government ordered health authorities to set up ethics committees. Simultaneously, the British Medical Association commit themselves to ‘sound ethical controls in medical research.’

The journey continued, when, in 1984, Helen founded the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and was appointed Secretary General for the International Society for Health and Human Rights. 

Helen Bamber during her Amnesty days
Helen Bamber during her Amnesty days

 In 2005, Helen founded the Helen Bamber Foundation 

We were founded the same year that saw the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking In Human Beings. The purpose of the Convention was to prevent and combat trafficking in human beings and to protect the rights of the Survivors of trafficking.  With the vast rising numbers of individuals who had been sold into slavery, it was clear that something had to be done to help these people. 

And so the journey of the Helen Bamber Foundation began, with the belief that all people must be treated fairly, regardless of where they were born. 

  • We developed our all encompassing care.
  • We have supported thousands of Survivors.
  • We have changed government policy and practice.
  • We continue to learn from the Survivors we work with.

Throughout the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic we continued to work in a dynamic, agile and client centered way, finding creative ways of continuing to provide our vital services and making sure the Survivors we directly support, continued to get the best possible care and have their voices heard. 

Our continued journey is fuelled by the knowledge that Survivors can and do find strength to recover completely.