Inspiration from the Spire | The seedy side of Copenhagen

Copenhagen is a city with a lively character and an atmosphere of openness and freedom. This is why I enjoy living here so much. But it can be a surprise when we hear about social issues that we cannot see and lie just under the surface of our ‘nice’ society. How can such a progressive place as Copenhagen have another side? It is a lot easier to simply smile and have another beer in the sunshine and feel content.

One of the big issues that needs attention and support, in my view, is that of modern day slavery or trafficking. A few years ago we marked the 200th anniversary of the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in England. But slavery is not just history, it is a reality even here in Copenhagen in 2013. HopeNow is a local charity that does amazing work to support men and women who are trafficked into sex or drug slavery. And the volunteers who work for HopeNow are really amazing people.

Michelle Mildwater founded HopeNow, a volunteer association, in April 2007. She has worked with trafficked women and foreign women in prostitution in Denmark since 2003. Her focus was initially on African women, primarily from Nigeria, and she has overseen outreach work in prostitution environments, prisons and detention centres and been an advisor in legal and residency matters as well as in lawyer-client interviews. She is alongside people when it matters, and the innovative work of HopeNow was acknowledged in 2010 when it won the Heinrich Prize.  

Mildwater, a social worker and trauma therapist, is an acknowledged speaker and lecturer on national and international forums on the topic of human trafficking. Since 2006, HopeNow has been the consultant and co-writer of three international anti-trafficking films.

The first, the documentary ‘When the Moon is dark’ by Anja Dalhoff, showed the work of HopeNow and the truth about human trafficking from Africa to Europe. The international version of the film is called ‘Trapped’, as shown on CNN’s ‘Untold Stories’ in 2008.

The second, ‘Kidney on Ice’, is about the ethical dilemmas involved in the global trade of human organs. 

And the third, ‘Affected for life’, is a film about global human trafficking commissioned by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. It was made by Anja Dalhoff and HopeNow in 2009 and can be viewed at  

Awareness, knowledge and debate are important factors in fighting human trafficking and bettering the circumstances of the victims. HopeNow is a fantastic organisation, working almost entirely in the shadows of this great city, and it deserves our full support.  

The health of our society is surely not about annual ‘happiness’ surveys, which usually say Danes are the happiest in the world. It is surely more accurately measured by how we assist those at the margins of our community who are suffering because of the greed and exploitative actions of others.

Keep up the good work HopeNow!