The delicious English breakfast alone would be one reason for me to move to England, to start every morning with bacon ‘n eggs. During the first day of the conference when I started with exactly this, I had to think back at a riddle. A friend of mine asked me once if I knew the difference between the bacon and eggs. I stared at him, clueless, until he gave me the answer. ‘Frank, look at your plate. You see the bacon and eggs, don’t you? Well, the chicken is involved and the pig is fully committed. Together they make a fantastic breakfast!’ I laughed when I heard this story for the very first time. But it wasn’t until the conference of NWG that I witnessed the real meaning of it.
The atmosphere during the whole conference was buzzing. The team of NWG, and Sheila Taylor in particular, organized the conference almost into perfection. It really showed how committed this team is to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation and without a doubt it can be said that their hard work paid off; more than 200 persons attended the conference and ceremony dinner; there were more than 250 helping hand pledges and last but not least, more than 2 million people were reached by Twitter to create awareness on CSE!
The programme of the conference was well thought-through and of extremely high quality covering a great deal of topics within CSE. There were stands presenting innovative projects, more than forty break-out sessions so that every attended could put together/design their own programme and could learn as much as possible. There were excellent keynote speakers; speakers who shared their experiences and their knowledge to help other professionals around the UK to make an even greater difference in their daily work. One speaker is Lorin LaFave with her courage to share her vulnerable story. She reminded every attendant why their work is so important, even if it feels sometimes overwhelming or against all odds.
The participants also showed their relentless involvement at the breakfast table, during the many break-out sessions, the lunches, and even during the award ceremony dinner. It became clear that the NWG team, the keynote speakers, the workshop-leaders had created together with the attendants an atmosphere for discussion, learning and reflection. Sometimes the whole conference gave me the feeling that the network appeared as one big family, a family that laughs with each other, can be painfully honest to another when necessary and most importantly, grows together.
#HelpingHands pledge (l-R) Lois Lee, Ineke van Buren, Frank Noteboom.
In preparation for the conference I read the reports about what happened in Rochdale, Oxfordshire and Rotherham. I was shocked as everyone else. Of course, the Netherlands is faced with similar cases, but not on this scale. I have witnessed that such atrocities can have different effects on professionals. Some feel so overwhelmed that they become indifferent because of a sheer feeling of helplessness. Other professionals are fortunate to be part of a strong committed network; a network that gives the professionals the support to not face the challenges of tackling CSE alone. The latter is what I witnessed: A network in which professionals from all around the UK are involved, a network that would not exist without the commitment of the team of NWG.
To put it bluntly in my concluding remarks: During the conference I discovered a network, the network of NWG, full of ‘chickens’ and ‘pigs’, which is the reason that this network will make a valuable contribution to tackling CSE in the UK.