A WOMAN who won trips to the USA and Australia is writing a book and starting a charity inspired by her travels.
Nicola Sharp-Jeffs, 39, won the two trips when last year she beat 1,000 hopefuls to the Winston Churchill Travelling Fellowship (WCTF), which sponsors people to carry out research abroad.
The scholarship is run by the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, created after the ex-Prime Minister and Wanstead and Woodford MP’s death to further understanding of UK issues by learning from how they are tackled overseas.
After a trip to New York, New Jersey, and Texas last summer, the London Metropolitan University research fellow packed her bags for Australia on November 7.
Ms Sharp-Jeffs’ research focuses on economic abuse, a form of domestic abuse where people use money, bank accounts, and other financial assets to control and blackmail their victims.
When she arrived down under she spent 10 days in Melbourne where she was hosted by the Women’s Information and Referral Exchange.
She took part in a discussion panel with the community organisation’s CEO to present the UK’s understanding of what economic and financial abuse is.
She said: “I think it was very informative for everyone there.
“It was about women being able to put a name to what they had suffered.”
She then travelled to the University of Melbourne to present the research she has done back home with women’s charity Refuge and the Co-operative Bank.
The ex-Wanstead resident added: “Recently there’s been an official enquiry carried out by the state of Victoria and it resulted in nine recommendations on how organisations should respond to economic abuse.
“It was such an excellent example of how these issues can really break through the mainstream agenda.
“I’ll be using so much of it back home in the UK.”
Ms Sharp-Jeffs’ next stop was Hobart, Tasmania, where she spoke to prosecutors working on the first ever case of economic abuse brought before a court there.
She said: “That legal framework to prosecute someone actually exists in Tasmania.
“But unfortunately the case was dismissed due to a lack of evidence while I was there.
“It was very disappointing, but a little silver lining was to be able to talk to the woman who was the victim in the case and tell her about the work I’ve been doing.”
Finally she visited the University of New South Wales in Sydney where she got to talk to the Australian Bankers’ Association about their guidelines on how banks and utility companies should be dealing with reported financial abuse.
On her return home Ms Sharp Jeffs has decided to go part-time at her day job so she can set up a charity solely dedicated to helping victims.
She has also had major interest in the book she plans to publish with an academic she met on her US trip.
She said: “It really does show that by learning from other countries, we can help change lives here at home.
“The WCTF is an amazing group of people, but I don’t think enough people actually know about it.
“So I would urge anyone in any field to apply – it really has changed my life.”