Meet Aisha

“When I first came to Bramber everyone was so kind,” Aisha* remembers. “But all I could think was, ‘Why are they being so nice, what’s the catch?’ Finally I realised there was no catch. They just accepted me as I was.” 

Aisha is a survivor of human trafficking. She was living in a safe house when she first heard about Bramber Bakehouse over five years ago. 

“Everyday you just wait in the safe house. Days turn into months,” says Aisha. “You can’t work and it’s really isolating. I felt really sad. I had no purpose.” 

Aisha was extremely suspicious about why anyone would pay for her to get on a train to go and bake. But her support worker encouraged her to give it a go. Although it was a 2.5 hour journey, Aisha remembers the first time she got on the train. 

“Getting the train felt like a big deal,” says Aisha. “I had to get ready, I had to be on time. I had my ticket. I suddenly felt independent and that I was getting away from it all.”

Having experienced years of injustice and cruelty, Aisha was very wary of being in a room with so many women when she arrived at Bramber. She was on her guard and didn’t think she’d be able to trust anyone. 

“I decided to go back a second time and I really enjoyed it,” laughs Aisha. “The day was really chilled out. No one was telling me what to do. I remember asking if I could go to the toilet. And they said I didn’t need to ask. Just to do what I want. I loved that.

“I had never baked before. But it was so fun. I realised that I could do this. I could actually make something that looked and tasted amazing.” 

Aisha remembers how connected she felt to the rest of the women. They laughed at the shape of cakes, they had flour fights and enjoyed listening and dancing to all sorts of music. 

“It was therapy without therapy,” Aisha smiles. “I could talk freely to everyone. They were family to me. At the time I didn’t realise how good it was for me.”  

Aisha firmly believes that it was her time at Bramber Bakehouse that helped her learn to trust again. She couldn’t believe that the staff and volunteers could be so loving all the time. She remembers how they went above and beyond, even walking her to the train station and exploring the fastest train routes. 

Throughout the programme, Aisha spent time identifying her future goals, practising interviews and in particular remembers discussing how to turn her weaknesses into strengths. 

“Everyone had a space and was valued,” Aisha says. “Bramber gave me confidence, just knowing that I could achieve something. And learning how to socialise again, even just how to introduce myself.”  

Five years on and Aisha has gone from strength to strength. She has paid employment, working in social care and on the side supports the modern slavery sector, giving a survivor’s perspective and campaigning for change. She’s even connected with royalty, sharing her story to impact the future for other women trapped in modern slavery.   

*names have been changed to protect identity