Originally from Scotland, Caireen Warren trained as a mental health nurse, and as part of her Masters Degree in International Development & Health, worked with asylum seekers and refugees in Glasgow. In 2012 she moved to France and began working alongside young people who had been living in Camp de la Lande or Calais Jungle, the refugee and migrant encampment in Calais before it was closed by the authorities and the young people temporarily rehoused. Seven years later, she moved with her husband to work for a church in Rome. This is when she came across The Clewer Initiative and got involved with the pilot project in Italy.
Fiona Kendall also grew up in Scotland and worked for 20 years as a lawyer before embarking on a dramatic career change. She was volunteering with destitute asylum seekers in Bradford when she began to look for a more permanent role working amongst the marginalised. In 2017, she started working as a mission partner shared by different denominations which sponsor her secondment to Mediterranean Hope, the Refugee and Migrant Programme of the Federation of Protestant Churches in Italy (FCEI). Mediterranean Hope was looking for an English-speaking lawyer who also spoke Italian and was keen to work alongside migrants and refugees. It seemed like a divine match. In the last year, Fiona has begun working with The Clewer Initiative on its pilot project in Italy.
In February 2021, Caireen and Fiona found out about The Clewer Initiative’s Women in the Shadows Lent Resource and felt that it could be a good catalyst for action in Rome. They invited people from the Churches Together in Rome group (a group of several English language congregations in Rome that meets monthly for fellowship and to coordinate, cooperate and promote unity in Christ) to attend the course. Each week, 15-20 people watched the films and worked through the devotional material over zoom. Some had an existing knowledge of modern slavery, others knew nothing.
“Some of the group were deeply shocked by the Women in the Shadows films, particularly the victims’ stories. I think for those of us who are familiar with modern slavery we can underestimate how shocking it is for newcomers.”
Fiona shares: “From the first week, the members of the group felt compelled to do something practical to help victims. They did not want to just talk about the issue. They wanted to take action. The films gave a UK perspective on modern slavery and so as a group, we had a strong desire to find out what modern slavery looks like in Rome and what support for victims already exists. While Caireen and I felt quite time poor as facilitators of the course, the group had an energy of its own and a number of people have already started moving things forward.”
Caireen concludes: “Since the Women in the Shadows Lent course has finished, we have formed an ‘Out of the Shadows’ action group. We have met a few times and most recently, heard compelling testimonies from two guest speakers, Giulia Bonoldi from Joel Nafuma Refugee Center and Blessing Okoedion, a survivor of Modern Slavery, and founder of the Weavers of Hope project.
“The members of the group are in the process of creating a poster to signpost victims to an Italian helpline number, translating it into different languages and will distribute it amongst local churches. The next step is to provide further training, networking and begin mapping the different organisations that are already established in Rome and work out how we might complement and support them. We hope to begin weaving the Out of the Shadows action group into the wider Clewer pilot that is getting established across Italy.”
“We are so thankful for The Clewer Initiative’s materials and resources. The Women in the Shadows course has provided a method for joining faith and action together and engaging and inspiring many people. We think the resources could be used by churches of all different sizes and type – certainly here in Rome, our group consists of various Protestant, Anglican and Catholic churches and we have all appreciated the material.”