Ali's story

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Ali was a proud and confident young woman when she arrived in the UK from Pakistan with dreams of pursuing a career in science and teaching.

When she arrived, she responded to an advert from a British Pakistani couple looking for a lodger.

She began taking care of the couple’s two children while she looked for paid work. However, after a few months without success, her visa ran out, and she told the family she would need to leave.

They persuaded her to stay by promising to sort out her immigration status, and encouraged her to look for cash-in-hand jobs such as cleaning.

“After a while they said I owed them £20,000 in unpaid rent,” said Ali. “So they made me to do all their shopping, cooking, cleaning, and childcare.”

Ali ended up working for the family for seven years, and over that time she became a shell of her former self.

She suffered physical and psychological abuse at the hands of the couple who assaulted her and kept her cold, hungry, and isolated.

“I wanted to leave but where could I go?” said Ali. “I had no money, no papers, no family, no shelter. I didn’t think I could go to the police for help. I felt completely in their hands. I used to tremble with fear at the thought of what would happen if they came back and saw me trying to leave.

“I wanted to kill myself. I thought I should just jump into the water and end my life.”

Social workers who became concerned about the family’s children eventually rescued Ali, and she was placed in a Causeway safe house.

“It was very cosy, very warm," said Ali. "The family I was with never put the heating on in my room. They kept me cold for seven years. But here, there was a big warm shower- I washed myself for one hour!”

Ali was helped by Causeway to recover and find work so that she could support herself and live independently. She has now been living in her own home for years, but the memory of her abuse and exploitation has made her passionate about helping others who are vulnerable.

As well as her day job working for a supermarket, Ali is part of the Human Trafficking Foundation’s Lived Experience Advisory Panel. Along with other survivors, she uses her experience of modern slavery to help influence government policy and shape recovery programmes for other victims.

Stable housing is also something close to her heart as she still vividly recalls her feelings of helplessness when faced with the prospect of homelessness if she ran away from her exploiters.

Ali now volunteers with homeless charity Shelter, and wants to work for her local council as a housing advisor for vulnerable people.

“A roof over your head is the most important and basic of human needs,” she said.

“I’ve been through a lot so I know how other vulnerable people are feeling when they’re facing homelessness. I feel blessed to be able to use my voice to help others.”

Ali was a teacher in Pakistan, and is still passionate about learning and expanding her knowledge.

“My classroom has become very big! I’m still learning so much about life. The opportunities I have to use my voice are helping me grow in confidence, and I recently stopped a friend from being evicted whilst she was in hospital. It makes me feel powerful and calm knowing that I now have a purpose in life.

“We were victims, but now we are survivors. Stories change.”