5 Questions with…STOP THE TRAFFIK’s Communications Project Manager

This week, we’re spotlighting a member of the Communications team. Communications Project Manager Amy Cuff has been with STOP THE TRAFFIK since March 2019, and is the recently appointed lead on the Comic Relief funded Aman Safety Project. In this segment of ‘5 Questions with…’, Amy explains the value of our tailored campaigns, the importance of international collaboration, and the fortuitous circumstances that first lead her to our organisation. 

What motivated you to join STOP THE TRAFFIK? 

Well, it all started with a bag! I was enjoying an afternoon in the beautiful South Wales coastal town, Porthcawl. My Mum and I were browsing in local shops, when I noticed a bag for sale. The words jumped out at me ‘STOP THE TRAFFIK: People shouldn’t be bought and sold.’ So many thoughts came into my mind, scenes from films I had watched and news stories I had read about trafficking instances, even occurrences happening in my home city of Cardiff, Wales. When I read these words printed on the bag, it made me think about trafficking in a different way, that at it’s core, and what keeps it alive, is money. People are being used, abused and sold as a commodity for financial gain. I had never felt so emotional over a bag before. Of course I bought it. 

Years later, I saw a job vacancy for a Digital Campaigns and Communication Officer at STOP THE TRAFFIK, I thought to myself ‘it’s the organisation on my bag!’ It felt like a sign, a moment of serendipity, so I applied, and here I am 18 months later! 

At STT, we pride ourselves on the bespoke nature of our campaigns. Can you explain why tailoring our approach is so important? 

STOP THE TRAFFIK’s audience, and the communities we aim to reach, are at the heart of our campaigns. Our campaign model empowers those we aim to protect, keeping people safe from harm by providing them with tools, resources and knowledge to enable them to make informed choices. We have run geo targeted social media campaigns across the world that have reached over 7 million people. As a result of our campaigns, people have sought help from local organisations, declined potentially dangerous job offers and have advised friends and family members who might be at risk of exploitation. 

For every campaign we run, the target audience is different. They live in countries across the world, come from different backgrounds, speak different languages and live very different lives from each other. Even if they are living in an exploitative situation, they may be experiencing it in different ways. Some people might not even realise they are in an exploitative situation. 

I love this quote by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I think this is true of the campaigns we run.

This is why it is crucial that campaigns are tailored to the audience we aim to reach. We do this in many ways. Research and Intelligence is at the very heart of our work. Our talented team analyse human trafficking instances in great detail. For example where the recruitment and exploitation happened, how it happened, details of the trafficking journey, the routes taken, even the method of transport. By identifying emerging trends and patterns, they build a picture. This informs the campaigns, and enables us to deliver the correct message and appropriate information to those who find themselves if difficult situations. This information often includes – how to spot the signs of trafficking in your community, information about rights at work and where to find help and advice close by. 

We run pre-surveys via social media before planning the campaign which enables us to understand our audience, gauge their level of understanding of their rights and find out if they know where they can seek help, should they need it.  

We partner with frontline organisations working with survivors of trafficking in the country and location we plan to run the campaign. These partnerships are the bedrock of our work. Partners share their insights and knowledge. Under their guidance, we plan the campaign and key messages together. Their contact details are included in the web page linked to the campaign, so the audience can make contact directly with them for help and support. We couldn’t do what we do without our amazing partners organisations across the world. 

When planning our Lithuania campaign, we ran focus groups, facilitated by research organisation ‘HumanKind Research’. The groups consisted of people living in Lithuania who had experienced exploitation. They advised us on the film script we planned to use for the campaign. Their input to the campaign was invaluable. For example, in the script, there was a scene where a victim of exploitation was locked inside a house and regularly beaten. Members of the focus group suggested this scene was removed because it was not a true depiction of the reality of the situation.  

Just because a person isn’t physically chained or is not being physically abused it doesn’t mean they are not a victim of exploitation. They said extreme depictions are unrealistic and may stop people identifying it in their community. Even worse, trafficked people may not identify themselves as victims because they are not in physical chains and so don’t feel eligible for help or support. This feedback was vital for our campaign to work and not alienate members of the audience we were trying to reach.  

We strive to inform people about their working rights where to seek help and, most importantly, that they deserve to be treated with dignity, humanity and respect and live a life free of fear from physical and emotional abuse. 

Trafficking has many faces and manifests itself differently in communities everywhere. Whether taken by force and held under lock and key, or having wages withheld, both situations, though different in severity, are examples of exploitation. Many are trapped by the invisible chains of psychological and emotional abuse. This is why every campaign must be tailored to the audience we aim to reach.  

I love this quote by Maya Angelou: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” I think this is true of the campaigns we run. Our campaign films don’t overwhelm audiences with facts and figures, neither do they lecture people not to travel for offers of work. We tell stories of people’s experiences of exploitation, through films, usually told in a first-person narrative (narrated by an actor.) We aim to speak to the hearts of our audience, so they relate to the story. If they are experiencing exploitation, we want them to know they are not alone, others have had similar experiences and that help and support is available.   

What do you find most rewarding about the work you do? 

During my time at STOP THE TRAFFIK, I’ve found the work rewarding, even random at times.  I’ll find myself at the British Embassy in Lithuania, meeting with the British Ambassador to discuss human trafficking prevention, then I’ll be in the office creating animations of chickens! Random yes, but never a dull moment here at STOP THE TRAFFIK! 

The most rewarding work for me is the invaluable partnerships we make, and what we can achieve when working together. Our partner organisations in Lithuania, like KOPŽI and Missing Person’s Families Centre always inspire me with their dedication to their work and the care and support they offer survivors. 

Following the Lithuania campaign, Kristina, the Centre Manager at KOPŽI told me about a  conversation she had with a man who phoned the centre after seeing our campaign video. He told her he was relieved to ‘finally’ hear his story. She told me he said:  

‘Through this video I heard my suffering. All the time I have blamed myself that I am failure, I couldn’t find a job and was exploited. I was so ashamed of myself but watching this short video, I understood that it was not my fault that this happened to me and I was a victim and I shouldn’t be ashamed of myself anymore.’   

I think this was the first time in my career I felt an enormous sense of pride that I was a part of the team that achieved such results and knew in my heart that I wanted to always work in a team that can create such a positive difference. 

None of this would be possible without people that work at STOP THE TRAFFIK. I feel unbelievably lucky to work with a talented, intelligent, kind and supportive team. The people I work with are dedicated to making positive change happen. I’m always learning from them and they inspire me every day. 

What is the most challenging part of your role? 

I think the most challenging part of my role is working on a zero budget when creating content. But this also provides an opportunity for us to get creative and resourceful! We often rely on the kindness of others, mainly colleagues, and our own friends and family.  

The concept for our Christmas fundraising campaign was based on our Greater Manchester homelessness and exploitation report which revealed vulnerabilities faced by those experiencing homelessness to trafficking and exploitation. We based the narrative on stories uncovered throughout the research. The film told the story of a man sleeping rough on a cold night, as he remembered Christmases from his childhood. The man is awoken when approached by someone, ready to exploit him for profit.  

Taking the concept from script to screen was a challenge on a shoestring budget. While other organisations were spending huge budgets on Christmas adverts, our team were proud to boast a mere £12.50 spend! Members of staff got involved, to play the role of the characters. The moment of tension, when the van pulls up and the trafficker steps out, was achieved only thanks to a local company who provided us with a van and driver free of charge. 

The little boy who stars in the film is my best friend’s eight-year-old son. He was keen to be involved in the film when we told him it would help people experiencing homelessness at Christmas. I was so proud of him, he really got into character, suggesting lines of dialogue and he gave a great performance. I look forward to showing him the film in ten years’ time on his eighteenth birthday!    

You recently moved into the position of Communications Project Manager, leading on STOP THE TRAFFIK’s new Aman Safety project. Can you tell us more about the project? 

Since being at STOP THE TRAFFIK, I have a much better understanding of modern slavery and the trafficking ‘business.’ However, I’m constantly learning and hearing new stories and ‘tactics’ used by traffickers that shock and surprise me. I was really shaken to the core when learning the ways traffickers target Refugees and Asylum seekers fleeing war and conflict. After suffering the trauma of war, family separation and making dangerous journeys, many refugees are preyed upon by traffickers who seek to capitalise on their displacement for profit. In hindsight, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Uncertainty and terror create the perfect breeding ground for traffickers who prey on vulnerability for financial gain. Traffickers thrive on making promises of a better life, so as fear prevails, exploitation will follow. The Aman Safety project is a truly ground-breaking campaign which will raise awareness about trafficking, ensuring vital information reaches Syrian Refugees whilst they are on the move. The project aims to disrupt trafficking operations on routes between Syria, Greece and Turkey, keeping Refugees and Asylum Seekers safe from exploitation.  

When planning the project with the team a year ago, none of us knew what was ahead, and how the world would change due to Coronavirus. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the exploitation of people for profit. Trafficking is like a virus. It will mutate to find new situations and ways to continue operating. One tactic used to recruit is via social media which enables them to keep their business running. Here is where we can play the trafficking business at its own game. We use social media to disrupt the efforts of traffickers and get vital information to those at risk before the traffickers can reach them. Aman Safety will provide a unique opportunity to reach refugees and asylum seekers as they make the dangerous journey from war to safety, 

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