Our Project Officer Caroline Virgo talks about how our new resource Hidden Voices came to be.
It was about 35 years ago that I first experienced the strength of a group of Christians working in the community. I had recently finished university and was anxious to move from the theory of international development to effective action.
I joined an ecumenical community working in development in the Philippines and spent a challenging nine months experiencing three different development contexts: evaluating an established piece of development work across 24 villages, working on central fundraising and policy in Manilla, and as part of a team beginning a new project in Putsan. The participatory community consultation techniques we used in Putsan were highly effective in getting a community to engage in dreaming about how their lives could be different, and then acting to make those dreams a reality.
Fast forward 34 years and I met Bill and Jackie from Mosaic Creative and experienced their Stories on the Street community development programme. It resonated, not only with my work in the Philippines but also with the parish work I had done more recently. I could see that the Stories on the Street approach could be used with interested individuals from parishes to tackle modern slavery in the community and to offer additional support to survivors of modern slavery. The Clewer Initiative has since collaborated with Bill and Jackie to produce a community based resource designed to do just that. We have called it Hidden Voices.
Three main themes have come out of our work together:
1. Modern slavery is present in most communities and often goes unnoticed. However, there are a number of signs which indicate that someone may be being exploited. The church and community can play an important role in identifying where modern slavery might be an issue, and then bring in professional groups to investigate and rescue individuals and families.
2. The community can play a key role in protecting individuals and groups who are at risk of being caught up in modern slavery, particularly homeless people and seasonal labourers on low incomes who may get deceived into slavery due to their vulnerability. Churches and communities can make sure these groups are aware of these threats and ensure safety measures are put in place by the appropriate authorities and agencies.
3. A key part of recovery is restoring dignity and confidence to be part of a community again. We hope that by using the Hidden Voices resource churches and communities will better understand the way that modern slavery affects individuals in their community and be moved to do something about it. We can then provide advice on how they can move forward and be part of providing a welcoming and supportive environment for the survivors of modern slavery.
Hidden Voices has been piloted with a small group of people and is now almost finished! We will be running two training courses for facilitators in the next six months: one in East Anglia and one in a as yet undecided location. If you are interested in coming along, why not get in touch with us.