Caroline Virgo, Director of The Clewer Initiative
Caroline grew up in a mining village in South Wales in the 1960’s and saw first-hand how hard many peoples’ lives are. This made a deep impression on her. Her mum, one of the early cohorts of Girton College Cambridge women medics in the post war period, was the village doctor and held the surgery in an annex at the family home.
At university, Caroline studied law – and then law and development. Following this, she committed to being part of an ecumenical community working for justice in village communities in the Republic of the Philippine Islands. Back in the UK, she married, had children and grew in her conviction that she was called to work within the church to encourage and promote Christian social justice.
As a result to what she felt God was calling her to do, she set up the Bristol Debt Advice Centre with members of the Church (now Talking Money www.talkingmoney.org.uk) and then Hope’s Place (www.hopesplace.org.uk) in the early 2000’s as a Christian response to teenage pregnancy (self-esteem programmes were the core of its early work).
She worked as a development officer with the Bristol Christian Action network (subsumed into Christian Action Bristol) and then The Catholic Diocese of Portsmouth (www.portsmouthdiocese.org.uk) where she worked on a number of diocesan projects including Called and Gifted and Caritas Diocese of Portsmouth.
Whilst at Portsmouth she did some work in the Diocese around modern slavery with Medaille. She felt it was a hard subject for churches to work with effectively and that people were nervous about it. When she came across The Clewer Initiative she felt that she should apply for the role, believing that her rather eclectic skill set and career history might fit the bill! Caroline joined The Clewer Initiative in 2016 as the first project officer, accepting the invitation to become its director in 2019.
Caroline shares: “Scripture is very clear – we are called to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbour as ourself. I have noticed that the combination of prayer and action is often balanced in favour of one or the other. For what it’s worth, I have tried to maintain a prayerful life alongside my action and to follow what I discern that God requires in any situation and pray really hard that God makes good any shortfall on my part.”