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Hidden Voices inspires action in London

6th April 2022 | Diocese

The Clewer Initiative

Compassionate Communities is part of the Diocese of London. It exists to support and equip every parish in the Diocese of London to serve their communities compassionately and show the practical love of God in action.

It has six areas of focus - supporting refugees and asylum seekers and tackling modern slavery is one of these.

Head of Compassionate Communities, Alison Tsang, has worked closely with The Clewer Initiative since starting her role and in Spring 2021, she believed the time was right to run The Clewer Initiative’s Hidden Voices course in the Diocese. Because of uncertainty surrounding Covid restrictions, it had to happen entirely on zoom which was a risk but she was encouraged by the number of people who wanted to sign up, despite it not being face to face.

The twenty participants came from a range of churches – some Anglican, some other denominations and even some from the Diocese of Europe! Several of the people on the course already had a working knowledge of modern slavery but the Hidden Voices course developed their understanding.

Alison explains: “A couple of the delegates were community managers from Food Banks. As they journeyed through Hidden Voices, they articulated that some of the behaviours they see regularly and were concerned about are potential signs of modern slavery. The course enabled them to verbalise what they were witnessing and helped others understand what a big problem this is in our midst. They were able to talk to others working in Food Banks and realise it wasn’t an isolated issue. This, in turn, gave The Clewer Initiative valuable insight and led it to develop some additional training and resources for Food Banks. In this way, the Hidden Voices course acted as a think tank, where people on the frontlines were able to feed their observations in to The Clewer Initiative and guide outcomes. It was a real two-way process and the team at The Clewer Initiative were able to listen and learn and adapt to the needs of the group.”

Another group that clearly benefited from the London Hidden Voices course was a cohort from a church in West London. Alison comments: “While it is common for individual representatives from a church to attend courses, there is something particularly powerful when a group attends together. Last summer, seven people from one particular church in West London attended Hidden Voices. They had a vested interest in the subject because their church building was being used by Hestia for a new project supporting victims of modern slavery. As they attended Hidden Voices, they got more and more engaged and keen to make a difference. They offered their time and gifts to Hestia and began volunteering at the project, befriending victims, providing cakes and clothes and even running some art therapy sessions (because one of the attendees was a keen artist.) Hidden Voices helped the church take the next step in its partnership with Hestia.”

For the Diocese of London, there were many benefits in outsourcing the facilitation to The Clewer Initiative. Alison explains: “I am juggling many different priorities and would not necessarily have the capacity to run the course regularly on my own. I can gather people but it has been wonderful to rely on The Clewer Initiative’s outstanding facilitators. The materials were really engaging and facilitators warm and confident, so I felt I could recommend the course and that people attending were in safe hands. As a Diocese, we can draw on and benefit from their expertise. It has been wonderful seeing relationships built between churches and individuals getting inspired to take action. The Food Banks work and West London Hestia project have been two tangible outcomes from last year’s course and we are looking forward to seeing what happens as a result of this year’s course.”

Photo by Charles Postiaux on Unsplash

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