Fiona grew up in Scotland and worked for 20 years as a lawyer before embarking on a dramatic change of direction. Her voluntary work with destitute asylum seekers in Bradford helped her to understand that her focus should be on people who are marginalised.
In conversation with the Church of Scotland, she learned of its support for the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI). She was amazed to discover that the organisation was looking for a native English speaker with advocacy skills, ideally with some Italian and keen to work alongside migrants and refugees. It seemed like a divine match.
Fiona has been seconded to FCEI by the Church of Scotland since 2018. FCEI's refugee and migrant programme, Mediterranean Hope, has teams based in Lampedusa, Sicily, Calabria, Bosnia and Beirut, as well as Rome, where Fiona works. She supports her colleagues through her engagement with external institutions and policymakers, by helping to develop good practice, in particular, in relation to legal pathways such as the humanitarian corridors which FCEI pioneered in Italy, and through awareness-raising initiatives.
Fiona has seen first-hand the power and potential of therapeutic art in community projects amongst refugees and migrant workers in southern Italy. She explains:
“The process of recovering from an experience of modern slavery or exploitation is long and requires specialist assistance. But there are things that we, as communities, can do to help that process of recovery.
“The therapeutic art project, which we've run with help from The Clewer Initiative, involved people who had had different experiences of exploitation. It enabled them to detach from and start to process the trauma they’ve been through by reconnecting with a sense of self and fun. It was incredible to watch people who perhaps hadn't held a pen or paintbrush for a long time suddenly be afforded the opportunity and the time simply to play.
“We don't have all the answers, and nor should we imagine that we do. It is a process that requires specialist help and we have to be very careful when we're attempting to assist people who've been through such trauma. However, it has been a privilege to watch people open up and share something of their stories.”