Women Against Sexual Exploitation and Violence Speak UP (WASSUP) is a youth group supported by Volunteering Matters through its Ipswich based Respect project.  The programme was conceived by four young volunteers, based on their personal experience of child sexual exploitation (CSE) or abuse.  The aim of the WASSUP group is to offer vulnerable young people at risk of, or affected by CSE or violence – particularly those with English as a second language with support in order to access safe pathways.

Using creative and innovative tools,  WASSUP deliver workshops to  schools or youth provisions  targeting  young people with English as a second language who are vulnerable or deemed at risk.

Last month, the WASSUP team made their way to Manchester to deliver a workshop to a group of professionals at The National Respect Conference. We hear from them how it went:

“After several selfies at Ipswich train station we hopped on the train to London for a brief stop and changeover to Euston. Luckily we remembered to bring change as we found ourselves counting our pennies to use the station facilities. From Euston, we made our way to Manchester.

Safely arrived, but having a meltdown of nerves with sweaty palms and what felt like a panic attack, we calmed ourselves down and we were ready to roll.

Kasia opened by providing a basic outline of WASSUP, giving insight the listeners what it is we do. Joanna followed with a heart felt autobiographical case study.  To lighten the mood, Kim hit them with a slang quiz which got a lot of laughs, and helped to relax the group considering the conversation topic.

Afterwards, Astra presented, taking them on the journey of a young female aged just 14 who suffered multiple abuse. This is one of the most powerful parts of our workshop and always generates great discussion.

Time and again, we seem to encounter the same problem. During our presentations, it becomes clear that professionals don’t have a clear pathway for young people with cultural barriers. Responding to this, Kasia ended the workshop by opening group discussion with a poignant question:

“If someone needed your provision but spoke limited English, would you do anything differently to engage with them after accessing our workshop?” This evoked great feedback; one professional stated that she would seek translators with relevant knowledge or experience who could do more than just translate. Others said that they would definitely think differently about how to approach the situation.

Hearing this feedback impassions the group- inspiring us to move forward, raise our profile, and continue to fight for the unheard voices of so many other young people.

We still encounter issues of limited experience within a multicultural context. Given this and the continuing level of migration into the UK, it’s concerning that the approach to diversity is so disjointed.  Taking into account the next two years and the ongoing refugee crisis- professionals will need to up their game in order to be able to respond efficiently and provide quality services to people irrespective of their culture or heritage.”