The Helen Bamber Foundation (HBF) offers dignity, care and support to refugees and asylum seekers who have experienced extreme human cruelty, such as torture and trafficking.
The HBF provides specialist care to meet the complex needs of some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in the world. Survivors are offered specialist psychological and physical therapy, housing and welfare support, legal protection and creative arts and skills programmes to help them rebuild their lives.
Set up by Helen Bamber OBE, who dedicated her life and work to supporting survivors of torture and human cruelty for more than 70 years, the Foundation is for those with nowhere else to turn. Its team consists of GPs, psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, lawyers and welfare and housing experts who are honoured to be the custodians of Bamber’s legacy and distilled knowledge to support such people.
Bamber was originally inspired by her work with survivors of the holocaust in the former concentration camp of Bergen-Belsen, where she went in 1945 at the age of 20. She saw as thousands remained in the camp until the early 1950s, unable to find a country willing to accept them. “Our job,” she said, “was to resource and strengthen the survivors, to find meaning for their survival.” Finding meaning for survival became a theme throughout her life’s work and remains a cornerstone of the work of the HBF.
Central to the work of the HBF is the belief that everyone deserves to be treated promptly and with dignity. Support staff help with access to health care, legal advice and human rights and work on establishing relationships and rebuilding trust so that survivors can begin to rebuild their lives and be reintegrated into the wider community as and when they are ready.
It can be a painstaking business. But the HBF ensures all survivors it helps are offered an individually tailored programme of specialist psychological care and physical rehabilitation activities alongside an advisory GP clinic, expert medico-legal documentation, safeguarding, welfare and housing support, creative arts and employability skills programmes.
The HBF holds an annual fundraising event called the Conversation, sponsored by the Pureland Foundation – an evening of storytelling hosted by its president, Emma Thompson. This year, the third Conversation will also see actor Stephen Fry and the BBC’s chief international correspondent, journalist Lyse Doucet, leading onstage discussions between the Foundation’s patrons and refugees who have suffered extreme human cruelty through trafficking and torture, and have fled their homes to seek safety in the UK. In previous years, Emma Thompson has been joined by Anish Kapoor, Colin Firth, James Naughtie and Fergal Keane.