Running with Emily

This month, Emily Chalke (Founder and Project Lead at Ella’s Home) talks to us about her experiences at the Hackney Half, joining the TRIBE 10% team and running with the women at Ella’s Home.

“The women we work with are dealing with very challenging and difficult things.  Yes, they are now free from exploitation, but the journey of recovery, from previous trauma to complete freedom and wholeness, is long and fraught with complexities.”

Many activities can help the process of recovery, but one of the best has to be physical exercise. Running with women at Ella’s Home, has helped survivors of trafficking and exploitation to move towards freedom, wholeness and most importantly, ‘to feel like a human being’.

A few years ago I was providing support work to *Lucy, a young woman just a few months into her new life since escaping from being held captive and who had a lot of work to do to overcome her previous exploitation. I remember her telling me that all she wanted was to feel “normal.”  As part of my advice, I suggested that she join a local running club which could help; providing improved mental and physical health and also the opportunity of making new friends.

*Lucy got really involved at the club, becoming fitter and stronger the more she ran. In 2016 we ran the Hackney Half Marathon together, but *Lucy crossed the finish line long before me! Now *Lucy runs all the time, completing marathons and even ultramarathons.

To date, *Lucy continues to be one of the most inspiring individuals to me, to do the work I do. She has pushed past so many obstacles to study at university, graduate with a first class degree and embark on a new professional career.  

When I heard that the TRIBE 10% Team were taking on the Hackney Half Marathon this May, I was really keen to get involved.  As I got into my training, one of our residents at Ella’s Home, *Joanna, asked if she could join me for a run. Having seen how physical exercise can help with recovery I was really pleased by the request. Here’s a little message exchange we had following the question I asked if she’d run before…

Since our first run together, *Joanna has really caught the running bug! She is running regularly now, pushing herself for faster times and longer distances – an incredible process to witness. So when TRIBE Freedom Foundation contacted us to say that Junk Monkey wanted to donate a cross-trainer, we were thrilled to enable more of the residents to continue their fitness also.

Having watched at the Hackney Half Marathon last Sunday, *Joanna is inspired and determined to take part in her own race. She has signed herself up for a 10K later this summer!  It’s difficult to convey in a few words what a big deal this is for her and how instrumental it is to her full wellbeing, but it is truly life-giving, she has a new excitement and energy that we have all noticed. I’m delighted for her!   She plans to run with a message about stopping human trafficking on her running shirt and has also said “the more I run the more I’m going to give myself strength to forget what I’ve been through in my past.’


*The names of clients have been changed to respect their safety and privacy.