We work with an Ecumenical Group who see migrant workers as “the poorest”. Marked by the words of Pope Francis that Realities are greater than ideas and an awareness of big numbers of migrant workers cleaning the offices and hotels in the centre of London surrounding our Churches, we began by a “listening campaign”. These workers usually worked at night and finished at around 5 a.m. These people (mostly Spanish, Afro-Carrabean, and Portugese) were on the lowest rate of pay and public transport costs in London are more expensive during the night which meant they had to “hang around” on the streets until 6 or 7 a.m. when travelling on buses and undergrounds are cheaper.
Several among us travelled to central London at around 4 a.m. over a period of 3 months to check which buildings they were cleaning. We met them at the bus stops and asked what they most needed. Basically, it was somewhere to go other than a Cafe where they had to spend some of their hard earned money.
We, therefore, opened a London church nearby early morning to offer them hot drinks and a space to pay (almost often Christians but all would have been welcomed). Two Street Pastors were employed to meet and help them find the Church and over a period of time, we asked what other needs they had – the answer: English Lessons. These are offered free of charge but mostly in the evenings when these people (mostly mothers) were both too tired to learn and moreover needed to be present to the children. We, therefore, offered English Lessons on Saturdays which were the days they suggested.
Following this we discussed the illegal pay rates many were receiving and, through one of the Pastors, we made contact with a Trade Union Leader who has now attended to morning “church prayer time” and is happy to work with “our people” to ensure they receive a reasonable pay.
Unfortunately most Churches do not look beyond the front doors and, therefore, do not see the reality and the need of these members of our Church body who are often “lost” in a country where they do not know the language and have no “friends” to help them find a better way.
Sister Josephine Canny OA