Education is key for Norwich vice trade charity
By Kevin Gotts
2010: It's all change at the Christian Magdalene Group project in Norwich which works with people caught up in the vice trade.
Project manager Canon Mair Talbot is moving on to become chaplain at the Colman Hospital and chairman, Rt Rev Peter Fox, has signalled a change in direction and ways of working.
Peter, a former Bishop of Papua New Guinea, has just completed his first year as chair of the charity and acknowledges that the sex trade has changed a great deal since the Magdalene Group was formed in 1992.
Peter, who is also vicar of Old Lakenham and Tuckswood, said: "Mobile telephones and internet communication have changed the way prostitutes work considerably and the Magdalene Group needs to adjust its way of working if it is to meet the challenge."
Education is the way forward he believes: "We will be doing far more in the way of education. More than ever the emphasis must be on equipping the vulnerable to resist exploitation and that begins with the way we educate the young; it continues in the way we offer viable alternatives to people who feel they have none. Lack of choice, lack of control, these are the hallmarks of true poverty."
He is concerned about the effect of an increasingly secular society on children: "People are being conditioned to think that sex does not matter, that children do not need a stable family background and that our only value comes from our spending power.
"The Magdalene Group is about promoting an opposite point of view that sex is too important to cheapen, that children thrive best where they have a strong and loving family background that we have value because we are God's children and we do not need money to have worth."
Volunteers play an active part in the Group's work, explains Peter: "We have to educate ourselves to be effective. To better understand people's situation properly. I think the training needed by our volunteers in the future will be more demanding than ever. We may have to settle for fewer volunteers from whom we ask a great deal more. It will not be a task that suits everybody. It will need very special people."
Other Christians can lend support, says Peter: "It can begin by learning more about what we do and telling others about it. I hope we will do a lot more to promote our work, by visiting church groups, schools, service organisations and telling people who we are, what we do and who we serve. Christian groups can give us an opportunity to set out our shop-window."
Peter voices his concern about a growing problem: "We need to do something about trafficking of young people from country to country for prostitution, which is a really serious and growing problem. Imagine how vulnerable a person is when lured far from home and without money. This is the fate of many young people, who are lured into this country from overseas to find themselves enslaved to prostitution."
Pictured above is Magdalene Group chairman, Rt Rev Peter Fox.