From 9-years-old, Sosa Henkoma was groomed by a gang, and trafficked around the country as he was forced to partake in crimes and drug runs. At 11, a rival gang held a shotgun to his face, and murder threats soon followed. At 12, he was given his first firearm. Now aged 25, Sosa has joined forces with the modern slavery charity Causeway to raise awareness of those being trafficked and exploited in the UK this Christmas.
London-based Sosa Henkoma, 25, was born in Nigeria however his mum left when he was two-years-old. At eight-years-old he was sent to the UK to live with family. Following cycles of serious physical abuse in the home, at nine-years-old he was taken into care.
It was whilst in the care system that Sosa became exposed to a local gang. Still just aged nine, the gang took a real interest him and began to befriend him. Sosa describes this as feeling like a “brotherhood”, and as he didn’t have family around, this felt important.
However, this wasn’t friendship, the gang continued to groom Sosa and when he was still pre-teens, they forced him to help them with their crimes and carry out drug runs around the country. Sosa would be sent to cities all across the UK to help with drug deals, and would often be left stranded and alone in unknown places.
As the gang began to control and exploit Sosa further, he became more involved in their activities. This led to him becoming a direct target for rival gangs. At just 11-years-old, a rival gang held a gun to Sosa’s face and threatened to murder him and his foster carer. Sosa was terrified by the incident and wanted to get out of this world, but didn’t know where to turn and didn’t feel protected by anyone.
By 12-years-old, the gang had groomed Sosa back in, and their exploitation of him got worse. At just 12 they gave him a firearm, and forced him to partake in further crimes.
At 13-years-old Sosa was arrested, and what followed was years in and out of young offenders’ institutes and prisons. However when out of prisons, life was just as hard – on numerous occasions Sosa was serious attacked with weapons by rival gangs, including being stabbed and shot.
It wasn’t until Sosa was in prison as a young adult that he finally started getting help, and the reality that he was a survivor of child criminal exploitation hit him. He suddenly felt protected, and was desperate to rewrite his future and create societal change.
Sosa is now a father of two, and recently started a criminology degree at university. Since his early twenties he has been doing all he can to stop other children from being victims of child criminal exploitation and modern slavery.
Sosa is an Ambassador for the modern slavery charity Causeway, and also mentors young people at risk, works closely with organisations to help them create ways of protecting children. This includes the police, NHS and public sector organisations.
Sosa is now sharing his story as part of Causeway’s Christmas fundraising campaign, called Rewriting Christmas. The campaign raises awareness of the 100,000+ individuals trapped in modern slavery this Christmas in the UK. Causeway are a national charity who support survivors of modern slavery, human trafficking and exploitation. Also supporting the Rewriting Christmas campaign is former Strictly Come Dancing judge Dame Arlene Phillips.
Sosa said: “I feel like I’m one of the lucky ones, as so many others in my situation didn’t make it out. That’s why I’m speaking out and telling my story, because there are others that can’t. Its really important survivor voices are heard, and so everyone can help spot the signs and protect young people from child criminal exploitation.”
Amy Bond, Causeway’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “We are honoured to have Sosa share his story as part of our Rewriting Christmas campaign. Sosa brings a voice and experience that is rarely heard. Child criminal exploitation impacts both young children, as well as the wider families and communities. Sosa is dedicated to breaking cycles of grooming, exploitation and modern slavery, and the work he is doing is already changing lives.”
Dame Arlene Phillips, one of Causeway’s celebrity supporters, said: “Modern slavery is on the rise, and it’s taking place in towns and cities all across the UK. That’s why Causeway’s Rewriting Christmas campaign is so important. Causeway needs your support to continue their work with survivors. Any amount you can donate to them this Christmas will be massively appreciated, and will allow them to continue making a real difference to some of the most vulnerable in society.”
Anybody who is in a position to donate to Causeway’s Rewriting Christmas campaign can do so via this link: https://www.wearecauseway.org.uk/news-campaigns/causeway-campaigns/rewriting-christmas/