As the CEO of the Sophie Hayes Foundation, the charity fighting against modern slavery and human trafficking, Red Godfrey-Sagoo’s notions of space and environment run deeper than aesthetics
A minimal, white-walled space is Red Godfrey-Sagoo’s default happy place. “It’s peculiar how different colours and surfaces can affect how you feel,” explains the Sophie Hayes Foundation CEO, who leads the charity’s fight against modern slavery and human trafficking; supporting women survivors on the road to sustainable freedom. “There is no logical answer as to why, but I do feel relaxed when my workspace is predominantly light or shades of white.” But when her organisation moved to home working earlier this year, it became all too clear that aesthetics have only a small part to play in creating a harmonious environment - it’s safety and solidarity that are key.
“Our work at Sophie Hayes always brings home an extreme sense of gratitude for the fact that myself and my all-female team can work freely and by choice,” Godfrey-Sagoo tells us from her temporary home office. “The work with our survivors is challenging and my teams need to support each other as they support the survivors. Much of this support comes from being in a physical space as a team. Now that our group space is in limbo, we all miss it and fully appreciate how special it is for our spirit and morale.”
Our work at Sophie Hayes always brings home an extreme sense of gratitude for the fact that myself and my all-female team can work freely and by choice.
The ‘regular’ Sophie Hayes Foundation offices are open plan, with large windows overlooking the bustling streets of London. “Across our locations we had adopted the large communal table approach to work, where we all faced each other to share, collaborate and break bread,” Godfrey-Sagoo recalls. “I enjoy sharing those light-hearted moments which make the work so valuable.”
Having built a light-filled office “cocoon” within her home, she’s able to reflect and be thankful for her “small bubble connected to the working world”- recognising that not everyone has such a luxury. More urgently though, the pandemic highlighted the impact of isolation on the survivors she works with, who so often lack personal space and a stable living environment. “Most have dealt with Covid-19 in safehouses and other shared accommodations, which have challenged their sense of safety and their need for personal space,” Godfrey-Sagoo shares. “If your past was a journey of being controlled and locked up, and your entire existence during Covid-19 is within four walls which are temporary or shared with others, your environment becomes an unhealthy space physically and mentally.”
Over the past few years, Godfrey-Sagoo has tailored her own environments to be simple, structured and organised, decluttering as a means to push back against a world “which seems to be constantly in top gear or gasping for one last breath”. In a structured environment, where “everything has a measured space and a purpose”, she is able to be centred and efficient. “I am also irrationally passionate about keeping things in groups,” she muses. “This means all my notebooks are stacked and my office supplies grouped in interesting glass jars. Once again. there is an aesthetic as well as an efficiency in the groupings. It’s a sense of order that stems from my personal style, which also tends be formed with clean lines and shapes.”
Freedom comes from independence and independence comes from employability.
Despite being in disparate places, Godfrey-Sagoo and her colleagues at the Sophie Hayes Foundation continue their relentless drive to support women survivors through to employability. “We are striving to reach more women survivors through our 1000 Women 1000 Days campaign,” Godfrey-Sagoo says. “Because rescue does happen and some women are freed, we have survivors, but rescue does not mean freedom. Freedom comes from independence and independence comes from employability. When we have supported our first 1000 women, we will continue to the next 1000 and then the next 1000, so that each one can live and work without fear.”
Looking around at her small white desk dotted with photos of her family that “remind me of my other roles as a daughter, mother etc.”, and the “little groupings of supplies" she’s added as “a step to make this new normal feel comfortable and natural”, she feels indebted to her all-female team, volunteers, partners and supportive board of directors who are united in the fight against such terrible crimes on humanity: “Surrounding myself with people drives the energy to do more, to stay true to the mission and to be fully engaged in the difficult times as well as the fun times.”
The Sophie Hayes Foundation - 1000 Women
Our charity initiative, Liberty, For Life is proud to support the Sophie Hayes Foundation with their 1000 Women campaign.