The Freedom Fund is now five years old. The last half decade has flown by, and I still have very fresh memories of setting up an office in London in January 2014, hiring our first staff members and launching our first hotspot program in India.
Fast forward to 2019, and we are operating in India, Nepal, Thailand, Ethiopia and Myanmar, with offices in London and New York. Our staff has grown to 45 to manage our eight hotspots in five countries. We explore these results in greater detail in our latest impact report, released today.
More importantly, we now have some 100 courageous frontline anti-slavery partners, who are central to all that we have achieved to date and hope to achieve in the future. Working with these partners, we have directly impacted over half a million lives, and positively changed the systems that impact millions of people vulnerable to slavery. One particularly noteworthy milestone we passed last year was when our programs liberated the 20,000th individual from slavery.
When our founders launched the Freedom Fund back in 2014, they had big ambitions for the organisation and its ability to help change the local, national and global systems that enable slavery to flourish in so many places around the world. I would like to think that we have surpassed those ambitions. What is most exciting to us is how our frontline partners are working together to promote policies that protect millions of the most vulnerable, hold governments and businesses to account, and change the underlying systems that allow slavery to persist.
But we remain acutely conscious there are still more than 40 million people trapped in slavery around the world. Much more needs to be done to accelerate progress to end this scourge. So, as we look forward to the next five years, we plan to strengthen and deepen our commitment to the frontlines. In addition to our existing work in hotspots and on global initiatives, we will significantly increase our investment in the frontline anti-slavery movement by launching a new program, Freedom Rising.
This new initiative will invest in hundreds of frontline practitioners, especially women, who are already working with communities vulnerable to modern slavery and human trafficking. As well as providing them with the leadership and skills training they have asked for, the program will provide long-term support to networks of these leaders in each country, and thereby strengthen the global movement of frontline organisations. Stay tuned for the official launch later this year.
None of the Freedom Fund’s achievements would have been possible without the generous support of our investors, particularly our founders – Walk Free Foundation, Legatum Foundation and Humanity United – whose vision and commitment got us started in the first place. Their ongoing support, and that of our other anchor donors, including the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, C&A Foundation, the Stardust Fund and UBS Optimus Foundation, has sustained our work since then.
To all of them and our many other committed investors and supporters, we extend our appreciation and thanks for enabling our efforts to tackle slavery, and those of our partners, to thrive.