Caritas Bakhita House is a safe house for women who have been trafficked, sexually exploited or forced to live in slavery.
Opened in 2015, it is owned by the Diocese of Westminster and managed by Caritas Westminster.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Bakhita House has remained open and fully staffed around the clock, although the house has been unable to accept new referrals.
One Bakhita House guest has shared her account of what daily life has been like at the house during lockdown:
It is six weeks now since the government announced the lockdown. For me it is not easy just to stay at home all day and all night because we are used to going out for walks. This is especially true now as I have just had a baby. I want to take my son out for a walk and to the Children’s Centre for a Mum’s Group. I can’t because all the Children’s Centres are closed, but I understand because it is to keep us safe.
But we are lucky in Bakhita House because we have a lot of things to do every day to keep us busy. The activities used to be run by volunteers, but now they are run by the staff.
On Monday mornings, we have yoga run by Anna (the House Manager). Every morning at 10.30am, there are individual English lessons with Sara on Skype - mine is on Tuesday. There is also group English [lessons] in the living room every morning. This is the first time we have had this. Every afternoon, we have an art class and a dance exercise group. As normal, there is a rota for cooking dinner.... and after dinner we (the 8 guests) play a card game called UNO together with Karen (the Service Manager) and sometimes with Anna. We [are] also lucky that we have a nice garden to relax and stay in when the sun is out!
On Wednesdays, we have prayers in the evening with Anna. This is our choice. On Thursdays, we have individual Drama Therapy with Mel on Skype. This is very helpful. We also have sewing with Anna on Thursdays. On Fridays, we have our regular guest meeting with staff after a special breakfast. We sit with staff at 10am and plan the next week’s activities, cooking and clearing up rota. After this, we all clean the house; every guest takes a section and so do the staff. On Friday afternoons, [we] have a baking class run by Anna.
On Saturdays, we have ‘pampering’ session in the evening - nails, hair, make up! On Sundays, during lockdown, if the weather is good, we have a BBQ lunch in the garden. In the evening, we have a shopping list meeting with all the guests and the staff. We have our own shopping lists and one for the evening dinner. The staff do our shopping for us, so we do not have to go out and catch the virus.
We have had a good lockdown so far and thank the staff very much. We try and keep our spirits good in [this] challenging situation.
Bakhita House Guest, May 2020
Image shows the handprints and footprints of Bakhita House's three youngest guests, all of whom have been born within the past three months.
You can support the work of Caritas Westminster during the COVID-19 pandemic by donating to the Cardinal’s Appeal.