Hidden Voices is a church and community development resource that helps groups learn about modern slavery and sets the scene for taking action against it.
One Hidden Voices group in Bristol has been meeting for a few months now. They have a lot of energy and created a long list of actions including training and awareness raising in local churches and social action projects, and a mapping exercise of Bristol’s hand car washes. Each month they meet for a couple of hours to check in with each other and plan the next steps of the work.
We caught up with Rosie, who has just taken over coordinating the group, to hear how their members came together and what she is excited about for the next few months.
How many people are in your group?
At the moment we have a well-established core group of 8-12 people. We also have a mailing list of people who want to know what’s going on and might help at events, and then those who just want one or two updates a year. And I hope we can expand. I think we need to find people who are interested and then catch them at the right moment.
Has it been difficult to move people towards action?
I think it does take time. Some of the exercises in the Hidden Voices course were really helpful, particularly the one where the group writes down all the organisations they have links with. It takes time for people to realise the sphere of influence they might have. Part of it is about just realising that people may know someone in their church might be interested and it carries on from there.
To start with we have been engaging with contacts we have within Christian organisations. There’s been a lot of planning and getting to grips with the skills and links that we’ve got within the group.
What are you personally excited about getting involved in?
I’m excited about awareness raising, beginning to work with other churches and building a church-based network. A church-based network is exciting to me because people feel supported within it, there’s a network of resources – people and places – sharing the load with one another as we do slightly scary things like standing up in front of people to raise awareness.
Everyone agrees that modern slavery is terrible, but sometimes it’s hard to get them to do something about it! What do you do to encourage them?
When I’m raising awareness I try to help people understand the impact that their choices make. There are small changes you can make everyday that can make a big difference to someone in slavery. I think safeguarding is key to that, particularly for those who work with vulnerable people.
The recent media coverage has been helpful as well - there are so many stories about it in the news now so that helps people to understand that it is happening.
So what’s next up in the Bristol Hidden Voices action plan?
We’re looking into a mapping project of hand car washes in Bristol with the Avon and Somerset Modern Slavery Partnership. We’re going to pilot that in the next few weeks and then do a full version around Freedom Week in October.