'We've got to work together', so says one Anti-Slavery group in Cheshire, who have been working across denominations for five years to raise awareness of modern slavery in their area.
Five years ago, a group of Christians living in Cheshire began a journey. From different churches, and different walks of life, they didn’t have a lot in common. Except for one thing: they had heard about modern slavery, and they wanted to do something about it.
They began to pray together, earnestly asking God what their next steps should be. From their prayers and conversations there emerged a consensus – whatever they did, they needed to do it together. One group member, who has been involved in the work since the beginning, explains why:
“We felt that we had to work across all denominations and faiths and people of none because otherwise we would be cutting across each other, not using our limited resources to maximum effectiveness. Therefore we don’t see it as Church of England, Methodist, or Baptist, we see it as the corporate church on earth working on this together, across all denominations.”
After building the foundation of the group with prayer, they decided to increase their knowledge of the issue by inviting a senior member of the Salvation Army to speak to them. They then held a forum, where Major Anne Read, who runs the Salvation Army’s work on modern slavery, spoke. It was attended by people from all across the North-West and helped them to galvanise their mission. They decided to focus on awareness raising and raising money to support the victims of modern slavery.
They spoke at men’s breakfasts, women’s evenings, WI meetings, youth groups, and coffee mornings. More people began to come on board, particularly young people who took on some of the speaking engagements – building their own skills and spreading the word about modern slavery at the same time!
As their volunteer base grew, as well as recognition within the area, the opportunities they were offered began to grow too. The group has been surprised at the help they have received from local people. They held a pop-up charity shop in a recently vacated shop on the high street, selling donated items to raise money for charities working with survivors, as well as raising awareness with shoppers. They couldn’t get any of the churches to cover the insurance, but incredibly the owner of the shop offered to foot the bill. They were even able to borrow tills from the shop opposite, and the shop's staff trained the volunteers in how to use them!
They see the church as part of the community and have collaborated wherever possible, going in with the Soroptomists on a tent at the County Show, where they gave out leaflets and hosted Stop the Traffik's Gift Box.
To make sure the project is sustainable, from the beginning they have always safeguarded the time and welfare of their volunteers. All the projects they do have a beginning and an end, so people know they’re not committing forever. And they try and fit round schedules as much as possible. If someone only has an hour to give in between doing their shopping and getting to work, then they will find something to fill that hour, and no more!
They advise anyone who wants to start their own Anti-Slavery group to take the time to get acquainted with what is going on in their area first. Don’t rush into intervention, but instead see who is doing what, and why. As the group leader says, “no one group is going to solve modern slavery, so we’ve all got to work together”.